No, this is not an announcement that Ryan, Mackenzie or Adrienne (our three adult children) are expecting twins and we’re about to become grandparents. Nor is it some kinky idea Bob came up with today. More on this topic later.
We awoke to cloudy skies, cool temps, and calm waters at Alligator City Marina, then consulted various weather sources and considered our options over coffee. The weather sources said a small craft warning remained in effect until 11am, and winds on Albemarle Sound were forecast to be 15-20 mph with gusts to 25. Additionally, the forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) was for lighter winds and gusts, and no small craft advisory. What to do? Wait or go?
Our dilemma revolved around the fact that today’s winds were to come from the north (the same direction we’d be heading), while tomorrow’s winds were to come from the east. We liked the idea of lighter winds, but didn’t relish another day wallowing in beam seas and gyrating through 25-30 degree swings in direction on auto pilot. So . . . we went for it, knowing that winds out of the north (Boreas) meant we’d be heading directly into the wind and therefore the boat might “buck” like a horse from bow to stern, but it wouldn’t wallow side to side, the dreaded motion.
We cast off our lines at 8:00 am, and the approach to the Albemarle was not bad. Thirty minutes later we found ourselves in high winds with 3-4 foot seas, which would have scared the cr-- out of us in our 27-foot boat back home, but “Next to Me” is a seaworthy old Gal who handled it well, despite the bucking that made us brace ourselves in the helm seat so we wouldn’t fall off. There are no markers to guide the way across the Albemarle, just compass headings derived from the chart, and at our speed (9 mph) we expected it to take 2 1/2 hours to get to calmer water. We were not able to see land at the center of the Sound, and waves broke over our bow and onto to the lower windshield as well as the flybridge windshield.
Just about the time we hit the middle of the Sound, we noticed the oil pressure on the starboard engine was unusually high. Bob looked at the gauges on the lower helm to see if they matched (they did), and checked in the engine room to see if anything looked obviously amiss . . . nope!
Now what? Cr—! So we fell back on calling our now dear friend and old standby in troubled times, Chris Caldwell (of Captain Chris Yacht Services who trained us back in January) and asked for advice.
How many of you know from experience that Olive Oil tastes waaaaay better than Engine Oil??? Cathryn does! Chris advised us to immediately shut down the starboard engine and continue to Elizabeth City on the far side of the Sound on only one engine. Hence: Ode to Twins! We’re so happy to have twin engines, as this is the second time in 5 weeks that we’ve had to continue to our destination under the power of only one engine. In both cases we would have needed a tow to get to port if we had a single engine. And in both cases we were in what, at least for us, were heavy seas, not a place we’d want to be while waiting for a tow boat to come get us while we had no power.
Chris walked us through some possibilities: water in the engine oil? diesel fuel in the engine oil? color change or bubbles in the engine oil? smells like diesel? tastes like diesel? HUH???????? Yep, he said if we couldn’t smell whether or not there was diesel fuel in the engine oil, we could taste a tiny bit to check. Cathryn has a better “sniffer” and taste buds than Bob, so she got elected. Nope, tastes like engine oil, not diesel. If she gets sick tonight, we’ll suspect why. Ha!
Bob called Andrew, the guy who changed our oil last Monday in Morehead City to inquire whether he knew any diesel mechanics in Elizabeth City (today’s destination). Andrew inquired why we needed a mechanic and offered his own ideas on what might be the problem, including the possibility it was just the sender that transmits information to the pressure gauge.
Bob descended into the engine room while Cathryn remained at the helm (still underway mid-Sound on one engine) to see if he could figure out whether it might be the sender. And guess what happened? He found it probably was the sender (yea!!!). But while focusing on the starboard engine, he either got bounced, or maybe just leaned back into the alternator belt. Suddenly he felt a pull on his t-shirt. The belt had grabbed it and was trying to rip it off his back! Bob leaned forward and got away from the belt. It turned out that pieces of his shirt were stuck in the belt, while others got shredded and ended up becoming red fuzz on the engine room floor. Some of it smoked up the engine room, and the rest ended up in the air filter that Bob later vacuumed up. Yikes! Bob reported back at the flybridge that it looked like a hamster cage down there. Too bad no photos of this part.
Finally, proceeding at 6mph instead of 9mph (one engine versus two) we reached the north side of the Albemarle Sound, the leeward side, and the waves subsided, winds calmed and life looked pretty darn good again. We took off our inflatable life vests and jackets and started smiling at each other again.
Throughout this whole exercise, we were sometimes physically uncomfortable, and sometimes perplexed or frustrated, but never scared. That’s testimony to how much we’ve learned and how much confidence we’ve gained in our boat and ourselves in the past couple of months. We are happy to have Albemarle Sound in our rearview mirror. And happy to have twins!