11 December 2017

Heading South!

I should have titled this post, "Heading South, Finally!", because it has been quite a long time since we arrived in Norfolk VA. August 22, if I can believe my own blog. In that time, we have ridden out at least 5 tropical storms, including Hurricane Irma, and painted Petronella from stem to stern.

And doesn't she look good?

For the most part, we had excellent luck with the weather during the whole restoration process, but once we hit mid-November, the weather turned iffy, and we had many weather-related delays. Just can't paint if it's wet or too cold.

But we finally lucked out with a string of clear days, and Howdy and his team were able to finish off the deck. As soon as it was dry, we launched!

This is how Petronella looked on launch day, with no sails, the Porta Bote still in the rigging, and practically every bit of deck hardware removed. That began a frantic week of putting things back together for Helena and I. I couldn't believe how many bits and pieces needed to be reassembled, but we finally finished.

Petronella afloat once again!
(And looking darn good!)
Actually, I am glossing over many, many jobs that had to be done before and after launching. I will try to catch up on some of the more interesting ones as I have time.

Howdy had us over to his amazing shop (club house?) for a going-away party with some of his other customers, including Jesse Martin -- who once held the record for youngest sailor to circumnavigate non-stop -- and his girlfriend Tina. They've got a new aluminum boat called Lionheart II that Howdy is doing some work on.

Party in Howdy's amazing shop
And then it was time to leave. Way past time, weather-wise. It was in the thirties this morning when we took these photos, just before departure. Ice on the deck! In Norfolk, VA. That isn't supposed to happen, folks! Freakishly cold weather for these parts. But we didn't think it would get any warmer!

My Brazilian wife looking cold but ready for anything.
I decided to wear my long, heavy wool watch coat instead of foul weather gear. Much warmer, and just as nautical looking, I think.

Now I know why these coats are so popular in the Navy
So we sailed just before sun up. The weather is supposed to turn really ugly in a few days, so we decided to poke on down the ICW while the wind howls outside. Hopefully when we get to Beaufort, NC, we can catch a weather window and sail off shore, but for now, we just want to start heading south.

We ran the gauntlet through the Norfolk naval base again, and had a nice cruise down to Great Bridge. The engine ran great the whole day (more on that later), but just as we approached the free dock in Great Bridge, the transmission refused to shift out of forward! WHAT THE HECK?!?!

That was my first reaction, but I soon gathered my wits and we just approached the dock at very low revs, then shut off the engine. Our momentum carried us the rest of the way to the dock, and we were soon tied up.

Minutes later, I was in the engine room with a flashlight, trying to figure out what went wrong. Had the transmission burned out? Impossible! I just checked the transmission fluid a few days ago, and it had worked perfectly smoothly all day. It must be the shift cable, I figured. 

Phew! Yes. That was it. The bracket holding the cable lost a screw somehow. The cable got out of position, and, just like that, it bent.

Bent shifter cable, and unbent throttle cable. 
Will have to locate another one ASAP. But man, were we lucky. It would have been a real drag to have this problem whilst approaching the Gilmerton Bridge or after entering the Great Bridge Lock. I don't want to think about it. Yes. We were lucky. And lucky to end up on a free dock in a town with lots of auto parts stores. Should be able to find a replacement cable tomorrow. 

Ah, the vigorous life.

Next Up: Baffling Dorades


  1. A great reminder to climb ALL over the boat and check ALL the fiddelly bits that can come loose . . . . mast head to keel, . . . bow to stern, . . . port to starboard. Also, Never forget that no job is to big for the person that doesn't have to do it. : )

    1. Finding all the fiddelly bits is a process. There are so many of them! This cable for instance is just barely accessible. I will redouble my efforts though!


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