Matt and I think the fact that people down here are calling the potential of one-inch of snow ‘the storm of the century’ is a riot. Libraries and schools are closed today. To be fair, the counties don’t have the equipment to deal with any snow and ice but, to northerners who grew up in New Jersey and New York and then spent 7 years in Cleveland, OH with occasional sub-zero temps, it doesn’t even feel like winter here.
On Monday, Matt drove 3.5 hours south and took the prop shaft to some experts. It is slightly torqued and, although it is possible to try and straighten it, why get a new engine and keep a slightly bent prop shaft? No doubt this has been part of the vibration issue. We now have a new one and a new coupling and, once business opens again, the work of putting the whole thing back together will begin. Since the boatyard doesn’t do much on the weekend, Matt was able to come with us as we did some sightseeing. The first stop was Angel Oak, a live oak thought to be between 400-1,000 years old. The trunk is 25 feet in circumference and the longest limb is 90 feet long. It is, in a word, spectacular.
After that, we drove to the Charleston Tea Plantation where we saw acres of tea (camellia sinensis) being grown and received a tour of the plantation and saw the factory processing of tea. It was amazing. One of the things I want the boys to see is how things are made (earlier calls to paper and steel companies in Georgetown didn’t result in any tours). One thing we learned is that decaf tea goes through a crazy chemical process (isn’t ethyl acetate the same stuff found in nail polish remover?) to remove the caffeine so, unless you are drinking organic, dump the decaf!
After spending some time on vrbo.com, I sent inquiries to 3 listings about a short-term rental. One of them got back to me within 2 hours and we moved in the following day (Tuesday). It never ceases to amaze me how luxurious life on land can be – just having a full-size sink that fits a big pot is wonderful.
Today, the boat was hauled out and put ‘on the hard.’ If you’ve never seen a boat pulled out, it’s quite thrilling and a bit anxiety-provoking. The TravelLift is driven out over the edge of the water, then lowered until its two large straps are below where the boat hull will be. The boat is then pulled with lines until it is in position above the straps. It takes a few tries to make sure the boat is fully aligned before it is finally hauled up and out. It is then driven away to be set up on blocks and stilts. Because it took a lot of time and resources to get to this point, it feels a bit like being in the hospital with your newborn baby. Although intellectually you know you are surrounded by qualified professionals, as they walk away you still can’t help but feel that there is the small chance yours is the one that will get dropped.
We made it to a boatyard here on Friday. Shortly before our arrival, the stove failed. It turned out to be a good thing because the solenoid valve was going and was sending too much current to the starter switch which is a fire hazard (better to have things fail upon arriving at a boatyard rather than upon leaving it). Since it was the weekend, we went to Middleton Place Plantation on Saturday with the boys.
Today, we picked up a new coupling for the engine and are having the boat hauled out soon which means that, once again, we will be on land. I think I have a rental lined up and will know more tomorrow.
My mom gave me a book called Go For It for Christmas. It is full of quotations, which I love. The one below is timely and is resonating with me right now:
“As you journey through life, choose your destination wisely, but don’t hurry there. You will arrive soon enough. Wander the back roads, the forgotten paths, the unknown ways, as you keep your dreams in your heart as the light that guides you.
Seek out new voices, strange sights, and bold ideas. Such things are riches for the soul.
And if, upon your arrival, you find that your destination is not exactly what you dreamed it would be, don’t be disappointed. Think of all you would have missed if not for the journey there, and know that the true worth of your travels lies not just in where you’ve come to be, but in who you became along the way.” [Linda Staten]
We just made it down to the Isle of Palms today at noon. We are bringing the boat down to Charleston to see if some better mechanics can figure out why there are still issues. The engine person said our original mechanic did not put in the coupling that he had recommended. It is either the coupling or the prop shaft. If the mechanics at the new boatyard can’t figure it out in the water, we may have to have the boat hauled out to examine the prop shaft.
We moved back onto the boat in the rain on Tuesday. It didn’t clear until the afternoon so we decided to leave Wednesday morning. We were able to use the space heater on the boat Tuesday night, which helped, but Matt and I still didn’t get much sleep. We were both anxious about going again after so many weeks off the boat. Anxiety which, it turned out, was somewhat warranted as we had our least graceful docking to date (in McClellandville) last night (as evidence, Malachi turned to Matt and asked, “Aren’t those really bad words?”). The area near the marina was very shallow and it was low tide so we just used the dock of one of the mansions along the ICW. Since we are already doing the nautical equivalent of limping, we were prepared to beg forgiveness from the owners. It seemed like the house was empty so we had a free but chilly night (the space heater draws so much power that we can only use it when we are on shore power at a marina). The plan is to get the Charleston boatyard tomorrow and take it from there. We shall see ….
The boys waited patiently yesterday afternoon as I had a 2.5 hour phone meeting for the pre-orals of a student’s dissertation (congrats, Em!). Today, we went to a glass-blowing studio in Conway, SC. I saw they offered a class to make an ornament and had called a few days ago but the class was already booked. I had a feeling that the boys would still be able to participate so I asked if we could just come and watch. I still remember the experience of seeing glass blown as a child and wanted them to experience that awe. We showed up but there had been no cancellations and the class hadn’t started yet. We walked around town and the boys had a muffin at a bakery. We walked back and the owner said there had been two cancellations. I love it when the Universe works things out like that.
There was also a living history museum and farm in Conway so we went to see that before driving an hour back to Georgetown. They do things on the farm exactly as they were done 100 years ago. We saw syrup making, tobacco drying, cotton and tobacco crops, a blacksmith and carpenter’s shops, barns, old farm machines and implements, and a house (with attendant pump and outhouse). The boys were amazed at how much more physical work life used to be.
Fingers crossed and hoping for a miracle, we took the boat out for a test run this morning. The boys were so excited to be back on it. Alas, it still doesn’t sound the way it should and the mechanic is out of ideas. He suggested hauling the boat out of the water to check the prop shaft and everything connected to it – something that would be better done in Charleston.
After helping Matt with the boat, I took the boys to the Center for Birds of Prey. It was pretty fantastic – bald eagles, vultures, falcons, hawks, kestrels, kites, and more. After an hour-long educational tour, we headed toward an open air amphitheater for a flight demonstration. A horned owl glided noiselessly 18 inches over our head and landed on a perch directly behind us. They also brought out a kite, a vulture, a falcon, and a hawk so that we could see them up close and watch them fly. The boys were buzzing about it for hours.
We went to Mepkin Abbey today, a monastery in Moncks Corner, SC. It was formerly a plantation and was then owned by Henry Luce and Clare Booth Luce who later donated it to the Trappist monks. The huge old oak trees, with their Spanish moss, are beautiful. We saw the small cemetery where the original owners and the Luces are buried and walked through a labyrinth.
Matt and the mechanic re-aligned everything with the fixed coupling but there is still some vibrating and rattling. The mechanic seems to be stumped.
Today we went down to the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center. They had an incredible number of fire trucks, some dating back over 150 years. The best part was the fire truck that simulated an actual drive to an emergency. The boys climbed into the front seat where they received a ‘call’ about an emergency. The driver (Joshua) was then digitally instructed to turn on the engine. After pressing a button to do this, the whole thing started shaking as if the engine were really running. The side windows were blacked out and the front windshield was essentially a movie screen. The simulated fire department door began raising and the fire truck began pulling out on the street. The whole thing was so real that Joshua, who occasionally threatens to drive our car, tried to scramble down from the cab yelling that he didn’t know how to drive. I explained that it wasn’t real and he then ‘drove’ through the town, onto the highway and arrived at the emergency site. Malachi also had a turn – with Joshua shouting advice about things he was about to hit. As I told Matt, the 6-year old is a far better driver.
On the way home, we stopped at Whole Foods to get some groceries. They were sponsoring the nonprofit Center for Birds of Prey that day and had at least four raptors on display. There is nothing cooler than coming face-to-beak with live birds (owl, hawks, falcons) while going grocery shopping. At dinner, Matt told us that there was some clarity on the boat issue. They checked the coupling between the engine and the prop shaft. The machine shop had not drilled it correctly so it was not ‘true’ and was throwing everything off – it may be causing the vibration and grinding.
Matt and I had New Year’s Eve alone because the boys were still down in Charleston with my parents. As we hung out in the blissfully quiet condo, Matt said, “I think I’m really going to enjoy it when the boys go to college.” We went out to dinner and watched a movie – and were in bed before midnight.
On New Year’s Day, we headed down to Charleston. New Year’s Day is also Malachi’s birthday. He was the first baby born that year in our town and so we ended up on the front page of the local newspaper (some consolation for 26 hours of natural labor on New Year’s Eve). For the first few years after his birth, we had a New Year’s Day party that also served as his birthday. We invited all of our other exhausted new parent friends who also did nothing on New Year’s Eve. Along with birthday cake, we would have a New Year’s countdown with champagne – all of us shouting “10 … 9 … 8 …….. 2… 1… Happy New Year’s!” at noon on New Year’s Day. This year, we took Malachi to PF Chang’s for lunch (which he loves) and celebrated his 8th birthday with a piece of their ‘great wall of chocolate’ cake. It was extra special to celebrate with his grandparents and surreal to think he will soon enter double digits. He was inundated with Lego gifts which kept him busy for the rest of the day.
Matt and I went over to the boat this morning to meet up with the diver and the mechanic. The diver got all geared up, hooked up his oxygen and spent about 45 minutes under the boat.
The diver, Ted, tightened a few things on the prop but didn’t see anything that would be making the vibration and noises. After he left, the mechanic wanted to take the boat out again. Matt wanted me to come along and help (I’m hoping this is a sign I’m actually becoming useful). I didn’t really want to go out because it was pretty cold and my hair was still wet from a shower. Also, after so many weeks in a comfortable place, I had visions of me hanging onto the dock with Matt trying to pry me off once it is time to get going again. Thankfully, as soon as we were off the dock I was filled with that extraordinary sense of freedom again. There is just something about being out on the water and off of land. We took the boat out beyond the marinas and did a few runs at various rpm’s of the engine to check the speed. The vibration and unexplained noise persisted (photo of our new baby below – perhaps it is just a bad case of colic?).
After a bit, we decided to take her back in. We did a fly-by near the dock and then Matt turned around to take her in and dock her. As he shifted into forward, there were several loud bangs and all of us yelled “What was that?” (with some yelling perhaps more colorfully than others). Particularly concerning was the fact that the mechanic had the same question. Matt quickly shifted into neutral and tried to get some steerage. We were on a backward collision course with a boat tied to a mooring ball. I was hanging off the stern thinking I would push the boat away with my feet if we got too close. Just as that was about to happen, the mechanic did something and Matt was able to put it back into forward. We finally docked – a bit shaken and no closer to understanding what is going on with the engine.