Sunday, December 30, 2012

Heading south

We are busy heading south to the Bahamas before our visas expire. Engine seems to be working fine, weather is all over the place, and we are having to dodge winter storms.
I have at last completed the blog post from the BVIs to Bahamas- check it out under the June 2012 entry on the side bar (right)

Here is a selection of photos from the ICW southbound - you wouldn't believe the things people have in their gardens.

Christmas Day in Bulls Creek

Bird lookout

This is not a bird...and is it a Christmas decoration?

Too many Christmas decorations for good taste..

and worse by daylight

Pelicans crossing

Racoon crossing

Beware of vultures

and Christmas gnomes

A shortage of prime waterfront location, the vultures move in...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Matador's Southbound cruise from Maine

Never having planned to go to Maine, once there we thought we'd make the most of it. We enjoyed the Bangor music festival and the Camden Windjammer festival, but we couldn't leave without visting the wonderful Acadia National Park at Mount Desert Island. It is a beautiful area, costs a huge $5 per week to enter the park, and this includes free buses linking the hiking and biking trails. A bargain! It is often difficult for us to access hiking trails, and requires a safe anchorage to leave the boat while we trek up big hills all day, and MDI has just this at Somes harbour

Somes Harbour anchorage 4th September 2012
44 21N 068 19W
A foggy morning in Somes Harbour
This is a lovely little bay. There is a private dinghy dock, but the locals tolerate visitors using their dock, for a contribution to the honesty box. Its a short walk up the lane to the road, and the bus is used to picking up people in the layby, even though it is not marked as a bus stop. All the buses have bike racks front and back, so you can bus your bike to the trails, and avoid cycling on the surprisingly manic roads. Every day we took the morning bus to Bar harbour, which is the hub for the buses and trails, has supermarkets, bars, shops and the tourist info centre for maps.

We bought a hiking map for $5 and wore it out after a week. Gorgeous walks, lovely views, and safe cycling. It was worth all the miles just for this one place. The cycling is fairly tame on forest roads and carriage roads, shared by the horse and carriages for the more sedate tourists who visit the park.
Stu's back, my usual view from my bike
Labour Day holiday weekend (3rd September) is the end of summer holidays for Americans, and the park was quieter as a result. The weather turned quite quickly autumnal as well, though we had warm and sunny days for our hill walking.
One tree has decided it is autumn!

We were sad to leave MDI, but knew we had a lot of miles to go south. We heard bad news from Yindee Plus, that Sue had taken a nasty fall and broken some ribs, so we decided to head back to them in the amazing Seal Harbour gunk hole, and see how the patient was doing.

Seal Bay, Vinalhaven 13 September
44 05N 068 49W

A really stunningly beautiful, natural harbour, protected from all winds. There are a few holiday homes around the bay, most of them closed up after the summer. We took advantage of someones waterfront access to park the dinghy, taking the bikes ashore to cycle a few miles to the little town that serves the population of 1200 people. We did this several times as there was no phone signal in the bay, and no internet. Sue was coping really well on board and managing short forays off the boat, so we just hung around enjoying the scenery and gave moral support. It was very hard to tear ourselves away from this pristine anchorage.
Vinalhaven has a very large tidal range, and we were unaware how much we had got out of the habit of accounting for tidal height when going ashore. One day we parked the dinghy, anchored well off in deep water, with a line ashore. We cycled into town for supplies and wifi.
When we came back we were amazed how much we had misjudged it!

  The dink is perched on a rock high and dry!
Thought we'd anchored the dink far enough out, but the anchor was high and dry too.

We took the engine off, and carried the dink to the water, loaded it up with bikes and shopping. It was not floating very well, so we thought we would wait for the tide to come in a bit.
So we sat and watched the tide roll OUT, further and further. It was a lowest spring tide of the year!! A tiny trickle remained in the deep mud. There was no way of getting the dink to the water now, we'd just have to sit and admire the sunset, eat the shopping, drink the beer and wait for the boat to refloat. It was dark and chilly when we got home!
Feeling pretty stupid by this point!

Nice sunset though
Time to move on, even Yindee Plus were on the move, with Becca joining as crew to help out.
Maine is absolutely chocker with lobster pots, so we don't like to motor or sail at night there, though many do and get away with it. We still have vivid memories of being caught on that fishing net off the Portuguese coast. It is the slow way south, coast hopping by day, but we preferred to be slow and safe, retracing our route via Boothbay Harbour and Gloucester.

Provincetown, Cape Cod 25 September
42 02N 070 11W

The gay seaside resort of Cape Cod. Shame we missed the bear festival earlier in the year. Bears: ' a subculture of gay men who embrace natural body hair' ! Bear week is the time to parade it for all to see apparently! Check out the photo gallery if you dare:
Provincetown Bears

It was too chilly and windy now for parading body hair. It blew old boots, and we sat it out for a couple of days here. A flock of little birds roosted on the boat, despite us chasing them off frequently. I didn't mind them finding shelter from the wind, but they rewarded us with bucket loads of crap over the decks, bimini, water catcher, yuk.....

As soon as possible we moved on, timing our arrival at the Cape Cod canal to get on the magic carpet tide carrying us through at 10 knots. It was still windy the other side, from behind, so we made up a few miles, anchoring at the charmingly named Fogland on the rural side of Rhode Island. It was a pretty little spot, surrounded by mansions and farms, but we moved into Newport town to meet Kurt and Katie on Interlude

Newport, Rhode Island
41 28N 071 19W anchored among the moorings

In the heyday of the USA, when entrepreneurs were making buckets of cash building roads, railways, well, building the new country really, there was no income tax. The richest people in America built their summer 'cottages' at Rhode Island. These palaces or mansions are vast, and inspired by the riches of European cities. For the princlely sum of $18 each per house, they are all open to the public, filled with the beautiful objects donated by the families in lieu of inheritence tax. We made do with gazing at them from the sea in our own holiday cottage. It was fun to catch up with Interlude, they were waiting for the right wind to make an offshore passage all the way to the BVI's. The quick way to get south – but we still had not visited New York and Washington, so we carried on plodding south and west ino Long Island Sound..

Mystic Seaport Museum 1 October
41 21N 071 57.9W

The musuem of America and the Sea. More than a museum, it is actually a small 19thC village. There are all the usual shops you would find - a watch maker, cooperage, rope maker, hardware store. They have actors in period costume, enacting the activities of the age. There are whaling and cod fishing sailing boats to visit, ones that actually did fish the Grand Banks. It is a working village as well, and historic ships come here to be refitted or preserved with traditional materials and skills.
The best bit of all is for foreign-flagged boats, they offer a free berth for a night, and free entrance to the museum/park. Bargain, and a very eductional place to visit too, with free hot showers and a washing machine we were in heaven.

Port Washingon - access to New York City
Mooring 40 49N 073 43W

No reason to visit Port Washington other than it being at the end of a rapid transit train route to New York city and they generously provide free mooring buoys for 1-2 nights. Many cruisers stayed here for up to a week and did not get charged for their stay. It was pretty empty when we were here, with a real end of season feel. It is a 20 minute walk to the train station and costs $15 return each on the train, but you pop up in the centre of Manhattan at Madison Square Gardens.

79th Street Basin marina and mooring buoys
40 41N 074 02W 9 Oct 2012, $30 per night for moorings

We did several train trips into the city to explore, before sailing around the island of Manhattan, to 79th Street Basin, very close to Central Park. We took at buoy there for a couple of nights, so we could spend time out in the evenings, without a long trip home.

We loved the city, and really enjoyed our cultural experiences there. Many museums have a slot once a week where you 'pay what you wish' or free entrance, and we took full advantage of these to see as much as possible on a budget, even if the queuing was a bit tedious.

  Times Square – enjoy the bright city lights for free!!

Perhaps the most photographed man in New York?

Empire State Building
An expensive view of the city at $25 pp Stu went on his own, and Steph went to see the Picasso exhibit at the Guggenheim
Twin icons of America

Frick Collection (pay what you like)
A superb collection of art in a private collection. For an industrial age man, he had very good taste and filled his Central Park mansion with some exquisite works, amongst them the Holbeins – Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell staring out from the 16th C. You could almost reach in and stroke his velvet sleeves – so amazing.

Opera – Othello
Sue and Mark (Macushla) stood in line for cheap opera tickets and kindly got some for us, as we were motoring up the Hudson River at the time. Rich patrons of the arts subsidise seats at the opera on a daily basis. We were in $200 seats for $20 – at the Metropolitan Opera no less. Magic.

Cinema – Wuthering Heights
Andrea Arnolds reinterpretation of this classic, visually stunning – it is a joy to see a decent film again.

World Trade Centre memorial
This has only recently opened. There was a competition for the design, and 'Reflecting Absence' was chosen from thousands. It really works – you can't believe the towers once stood here, among all the other skyscrapers which now reflect the skyline, it does seem quite a small footprint. The water cascades down into dark, seeming bottomless cubes, and the names of every victim are embossed around the fountains. The museum has not yet opened, but you can peer down into it to see how many stories below ground level the towers extended. Hard to believe they fell down just like that.

The Highline – a green urban renewal project – a walkway has been made from a disused overhead railway line.

Sailing under Manhattans bridges on a misty October day
A fireboat escorts a battleship down the Hudson river.
After a week in New York we were thoroughly exhausted, and we sailed down to Sandy Hook to fuel up (Long Island sound is very expensive for fuel, so we were running on fumes) and prepare for an offshore passage to the Delaware entrance. When I say expensive, that is of course relative to prices further south, not the UK. Diesel at Sandy Hook was $4/gallon or just under 65p/litre.
At 0430 we arrived at the Harbour of Refuge at the entrance to the Delaware River, we had to wait for the tide to continue up the Delaware. I can't describe how cold it was at that time of the morning, blowing 25 knots from the north. The boat felt warm when we came inside, but was only 7C ! We lit the diesel heater and crawled under the duvet to recover. These October offshore overnighters are no fun at all. We wouldn't recommend coming up this way without some form of boat heating.
We spent a couple of days just riding the tide up to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal – it saves a longer offshore route, and down the Chesapeake to Annapolis. Lots of cruisers had made it to the Annapolis boat show a week before, and were still hanging around exploring the area. It probably saved us a load of money missing the boat show.
When we planned to visit the US east coast, we had intended to just spend the summer cruising the Chesapeake Bay and all its little creeks. On the way north it was way too hot to be enjoyable, and there is the risk of hurricanes, thunderstorms, no good swimming and lots of jellyfish, so we carried on north. Now, here we were in the middle of October, too cold to swim, and running out of time to relax in pleasant bays. Also, it was way past the end of holiday season, and other than Annapolis, everything was closed.
Washington DC
38 53N 077 02W Anchored 23rd October
A couple more days down the Chesapeake and we turned up the Potomac river for a 2 day run to Washington DC. We anchored in a little stub of the river outside the Gangplank marina, and Capitol YC. We had the Washington memorial in sight from the anchorage, and it was a 3 minute walk to the metro station, supermarket and bus stop. To keep fit, most days we walked to and/or from the city (25minutes) as well as spending all day on our feet in museums and galleries.
For $10/day we parked our dinghy at the Ganglank marina, and had hot showers and access to the laundry facilities there. There is a security presence 24/7, so our dink was very safe.
The famous Smithsonian Institute is based in Washington. Large sums of money were donated by Mr Smithson, a British scientist, to create an 'establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men'. Even though he had never visited the USA, the legacy was accepted and a charitable trust formed in 1836, and since then many others have contributed. An American diplomat was sent to England to collect the bequest, and he returned with 105 sacks containing 104,960 gold sovereigns (about $500,000 at the time). Now, all the Smithsonian museums have free entry and are totally marvellous.

Reporting from the White House!

There are 11 museums on the National Mall, the pedestrian grass strip in the centre of the city. We visited the air & space museum 3 times and the Natural history museum 4 times – the best thing about free entry, you can wander until your brain is completely full and then return another day afresh for more. In each museum there are docent-led tours (volunteer experts) who lead you around the exhibits and teach you even more stuff! We came away with our heads very full indeed.
My 3 most recent reads were good preparation: Moondust (Andrew Smith) about the 12 men who landed on the moon; The Greatest Show on Earth (Richard Dawkins) about the compelling evidence for evolution – loads of fossils are in the Natural History museum; and The Story of Art (E Gombrich) about how art evolved from cave drawings to modern art. If only homework at school had been that interesting.
Did this really orbit the moon in 1969 and return to earth?
Surely this was made by Blue Peter, not NASA....

Really clever people explaining stuff...

The evidence for evolution; bat fingers, giraffe necks, horses feet. I spent hours in the bones rooms, checking out heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Lincoln's Memorial

WWII memorial – each star represents 100 American service personnel lost in the war, but half as many again perished in the Civil War precipitated by Lincoln's presidency.
We enjoyed all forms of art on display
The staff of the marina were a little strange but helpful. The second day we were there they told us the marina was on it's hurricane watch protocol. We were informed that the marina had been assessed and would not withstand a Cat2 hurricane, once the full hurricane plan is underway, at T minus 48hr, they stop taking new boats in and concentrate on tying down the ones they have.
Very cheery news we thought. Still lots of hurricanes and storms had formed and dissipated throughout the season, and come to nothing on the east coast, so we carried on going about the business of sightseeing with this worrying news in mind.
We considered all options for other marinas and going back down the Potomac to find a narrow winding creek to shelter from the storm, but decided that staying put with 2 anchors out was as good an option as any. We spent a couple of days preparing for the worst, taking down the foresails, stowing all the deck gear, putting chafe-proof gear on lines on both anchors, hoping that the forecasts were wrong. The worst times were, firstly, deciding where to place ourselves for the blow, but once we'd done that we could concentrate on getting our preparations done. Secondly, watching the barometric pressure plummet as the 'Frankenstorm' approached the coast, without knowing how likely the meterologists had got the forecast track right. At one point it was headed straight for us. After all, as Hurricane Sandy fused with a huge Nor'easter on its way north, it was supposed to be unique – how can you forecast a 90 degree turn if it's unique ?– but the models were right, it did exactly that and New Jersey and New York bore the brunt of it. The reconstruction is still ongoing 2 months later.
Insurance companies write clauses into our boat policies which force us north of 30 or 35 degrees from 1 June to 1 November (with some variation between companies), but really Irene last year and Sandy this year prove that latitude and dates are irrelevant. This year the hurricane season started in May, before the NOAA hurricane watch centre is up and running for the year. Sandy came along very late in the year, and well north – a tropical storm in winter weather clothes. Mad weather!!
Well, we spent most of the storm on the phone, internet and Skype catching up with people who wondered where we were, so we didn't have too much spare time for worrying. It was great to chat to everyone too. See previous blog entry for what happened during Frankenstorm.........
We left Washington behind and headed down to Portsmouth, Virginia, rejoining our northbound track. This time we took a right turn and headed into the Great Dismal Swamp canal and national park, an alternative route of the Intracoastal waterway only taken by pleasure boats of 6' draft or less.
The canal is still maintained by the US Army Engineer Corp and is a very pleasant narrow meander through the back country. A couple of locks maintain the depth, though we bumped along the bottom at times, probably over tree trunks in the sandy bottom. Not only is the canal free to transit, but so is the park and several pontoon berths along the way.
We did see real live bear......poo. A couple of very tame bears posed for their photos in the visitor centre.
Great Dismal Swamp Canal bears

Autumn has followed us south!Now all the trees are golden
Elizabeth City
Free dock 36 17N 076 13W
This town calls itself the harbour of hospitality. Not only do they provide free waterfront space for visitors to tie up, but the visitor centre lends bikes for free and there is a shuttle bus to the supermarket. We met up with a large bunch of Canadian cruisers headed south for the winter.
As we left Elizabeth City a Coast Guard RIB followed us down the channel. It was a cold, grey blustery day and Stu felt sorry for them out on the water in training, so he gave them a cheery wave. We were sailing along with full sail up, doing maximum speed in flat water. It didn't stop them coming alongside and indicating that they wanted to put 2 guys aboard for an inspection.
Although we knew it was possible that the USCG can inspect your vessel at any time, we are the only foreign-flagged boat we know that has been boarded. We had no idea what to expect..
For cruisers coming to the US, here's the full report I sent to our little fleet of cruisers up here – feel free to skip it if you like.
Coast Guard visits Matador We were leaving Elizabeth City, still in the river, a couple of miles from being out in the 'open' in the Albemarle Sound. There was a steady stream of boats, power and sail going south that morning - no idea why they picked us out, but we seem to get a visit in every country we are in! The CG was like a large RIB with polystyrene foam for sides. They indicated that they were going to come alongside and put 2 guys aboard, told us to keep our course and speed - at this time we had full sail up in 20-25 knots downwind, but thinking about reefing for the sound before it got a bit boisterous. First they asked if we had weapons on board. No, we don't.
I went below to turn off the cooker (I'd been cooking breakfast) and diesel heater and do a few pre coastguard visit things below while they were doing their high speed board. Like tidying up...
No 1 sat in the cockpit and did papers, asking questions.
No 2 wanted to be below and was told to look around,with his little list in a book (we think he was the trainee)
First job 'for their own safety' they wanted us to show them the bilge area and the engine compartment so they can see we are not sinking or on fire. Glad I turned off the diesel heater!! You can't see our bilge for water tanks, and they were content with a quick peek in the side of the engine bay.
He asked if we had a fixed fire extinguisher in the engine room ( we do, automatic)
They wanted boat papers, passports, phone number.
They wanted to see the following: Personal flotation devices for number of people on board A throw-able flotation device; A sound making device - he wanted to hear it too. We have a pump up air horn which we wondered if it is not USCG approved, but it seemed to satisfy them once we got it working after an embarrassing pause, then he nearly jumped overboard; A copy of the collision prevention regs ('international?' I asked -yes)- I couldn't lay my hands on it directly, and fumbled around looking in the bookshelves -they got bored and moved on from that; Other fire extinguishers - they said it did not matter if they were not US approved, because we are not a US flagged boat; Asked if we had an oil policy notice and a garbage policy notice - we do have home made ones, thanks to Yindee Plus. He looked at them but didn't read them; He asked if we had a standard Y valve arrangement on the holding tank. We said yes, and he wanted to see it. I'd slipped a pre-prepared zip tie on it minutes before, and he was happy with what he saw. He didn't check the sea-cock or try to pump the toilet; He asked what training or qualifications we had. Stu reeled off a list, and they didn't ask for proof. Stu mentioned 23000 miles at sea.; He kept asking if we had access to the internet, not necessarily at sea. Not sure what the relevance of that was; The trainee was still going on about 'numbers' but he was told by no 1 that we don't need them as we are foreign.
He then gave us a yellow copy of his form to keep, which shows that we were inspected and did not have any violations or warnings. I would have asked more about fines and violations, but we really just wanted them off the boat asap, and we were glad to see the back of them, even though they were very professional. We were navigating at high speed with 8' of water either side of the narrow channel - it was kind of hard to concentrate. They left and didn't rip the toerail off with their boat, unlike the Spanish CG. Any questions, email me, and if you want a copy of the oil or garbage notice I can send you one but say thanks to Yindee Plus.
Looking at the yellow paper now, there is a list of possible violations:
Numbering Certificate Document/Official Number
Personal Flotation device
Sound Producing device/ Bell
Fire extinguisher
Backfire flame control/ Ventilation
Marine Sanitation Devices
Installed Toilet and no MSD Installed
Pollution placard not posted
Garbage placard not posted
Waste management plan vsls>40'
FCC SSL Not posted/available
Operation without FCC SSL
Nav/Anchor lights (Sunrise-sunset only)
Visual distress signals (Sunrise-sunset only)
Negligent Operation
Intoxicated Operation
Unsafe conditions creating especially hazardous conditions
Fuel leak
Accumulation of fuel in bilges.
Before you ask, I don't know what FCC SSL is.....

Suffice to say they were professional and polite, but no doubt we would have incurred a stupid fine if they couldn't tick their boxes. In Turkey you can be fined for polluting the water with oil or sewage. In the US you can be fined for not having a sign stating your oil, garbage and sewage disposal plan, or for not demonstrating the operation of your poo handing tank.
It doesn't matter if you know the collision regulations like the back of your hand, you must have the idiot-proof chart on hand. The inspection focussed on having the correct paperwork, rather than actually what we were doing. I doubt any person irresponsible enough to throw oil into the sea, would be in any way deterred by a sign in the boat saying he shouldn't do it! The regulations are cheap and easy to abide by, so just do it. By the way, you are also supposed to carry a copy of your boat papers in the dinghy at all times, and have lifejackets for all passengers, a light and a sound making device. Instant fine if caught without – don't say we didn't warn you.
From Elizabeth City we would have liked to visit Roanoak, and the Outer Banks – the string of islands that make up Cape Hatteras. However, the water is shallow, the wind strong and wintry and we were warned that these communities 'roll up the streets' at the end of summer, and there is little to see or do there out of season. Given unlimited time, we would still have visited, but more worrying events were unfolding. For the last 3 oil changes, Stu had been finding tiny but increasing amounts of swarf in the oil strainer.
Shiny bits – but not where we like to see them!
Most engines don't have a strainer and the bits would have gone unseen into the oil filter and into the bin. But we couldn't keep ignoring these bits, even though the engine was working perfectly. The oil pressure was fine, no smoke, no noise, no knocking – nothing to suggest anything was amiss. Knowing there were friends and expert engineers at Jarrett Bay, we pulled in hoping that it would just be for a night or 2 to track down and tackle the problem.
Jarrett Bay Boatworks, 20th November 2012
North of Beaufort, North Carolina.
34 48N 076 41W
Jarrett Bay has fantastic facilities for boats and engines and all sorts of work is done here. The core business are the sports fishing boats, whose engine services cost $20000! It's amazing that they are at all interested in our puny horsepowers and cheque books. However they are as friendly and helpful as can be. The owners of these boats are in another league. It costs $1000 in fuel to go out fishing for a day – 60 miles out to where the marlin live. The engines guzzle 100 gallons an hour. Mindblowing, eh?
It is 8 miles to the nearest bar or restaurant – the perfect getaway for recovering socialaholics!!
Over several days, and either side of Thanksgiving, many people came and gave their expert advice and assistance. The engine was turned on it's side to access the sump and larger shiny bits were found.
It appeared that one of the bearings was breaking down, but as more and more of the engine was taken to bits we could not find a single bearing that was not immaculate. Pretty amazing for a 34 year old engine, proving that Meryl the Merc was well over-engineered.
Heads were scratched and many experts consulted in the yard and back in the UK. The biggest spanner and wrench imaginable were defeated by the pulley at the end of the engine and there remained no choice but to haul the engine out of the boat for further surgery.
While Brian and Gaston at Performance Diesel took the engine to bits, we sourced the parts for rebuilding the engine. All the original parts were still available from Mercedes, and most were even found within the USA, even though none of the engineers had ever seen a Mercedes engine here.
They found the cause of the problem – one lousy bearing, possibly some water contamination of one bearing from the engine refit 8 years ago. Or maybe it wasn't made as well as the other bearings – the Friday afternoon bearing.
It looks just like a cookie cutter doesn't it? I thought I might have it made into a bracelet – it's expensive enough – but Stu says it will give me lead poisoning.
We had a couple of days of confidence crisis, and started looking at new engines. However, the new ones look smaller and lighter than my sewing machine and didn't fill me with confidence. It's a whole can of worms to re-engine, to match the propeller, alternator, charging systems, control levers – a 6 month project to choose the right engine and do the installation right. As all experts agreed that Meryl still had years of good service in her, inside she looked hardly used, we continued with the rebuild. The cost of the parts to rebuild was a measly £380. The labour costs are the killer, so Stu is doing as much grunt work as he can himself.
Not a single stage of this drama was without its snags, and we even had to load Meryl into a truck and drive her 60 miles inland to a machine shop and engine rebuilders. Here 3 engineer clones who operated at the pace of the most meticulous snail, machined the new camshaft bearing to fit the hole, and tested it in the back of the truck (it was in a box to protect it from road dirt). These guys build racing car engines, and really know their stuff. You could eat your dinner off the floor, it was so clean and tidy. Its a shame that young people are not learning what these guys do, it is a whole generation of expertise that will be lost forever when they go. I have big respect for what they know,and what they can make work. They were so meticulous, considering every move before they did anything - it saves costly errors. I wouldn't like to be standing behind them in a fire though. |I can just see that the first response to Fire Fire would be to bend down and carefully check their shoe laces before making their way to the carefully calculated nearest exit. But what confidence they inspire.
The lovely shiny truck was lent to us by a really nice guy, for the duration of our stay. He also gave up his Sunday to help us left the engine onto it's side. Thank you so much Toby and Jessie, hope you get out and start living the dream soon! Our friends have been running around all over for us, and bringing oysters and shrimp and other delicacies to keep our spirits up.
So many fabulous, generous people have helped us out here, we will always have fond memories of North Carolina, despite the engine woes.
Well, Meryl was lowered back through the hatch onto her engine mounts yesterday, with no millimeters to spare. It will take a day or so to reconnect the spaghetti of wires and pipes, and then the moment of truth – will she still run perfectly again with no noise, smoke or nasty knockings?
Engine bay spaghetti

Meryl comes home
If so, we stand a chance of heading south to the Bahamas before our visas expire on 12th January, only 600 miles away at sea, but a lot more down the ICW avoiding the nasty weather that forms from Cape Hatteras. It is the birthplace of the depressions that head across to old England all winter.
Look out for our winlink position changing, then you'll know that we are on the move again, hopefully without the assistance of Towboat US.