17 October, 2018

“I’ve never seen such sailors. Not in all my born days, I ain’t. Naturals! My God, everyone of you, naturals…”                                                  Captain Ron

Day 2 passes much like Day 1; the weather is beautiful, though hot. The waterway is wide and lined on both shores with deep marsh grass; signs of civilization are sparse and few. Snowy white egrets and brown herons wander along the marsh edges, fishing for breakfast. We spot pods of dolphins all along the way, gracefully arcing through the water; one group swims up to the front of our boat to play in the bow wave, driving Missy to fits.

With largely favorable currents and slight winds, we make such good time that Cindy suggests we press on from our intended stop at Wahlberg Creek and cross St Catharine’s Sound. The wind is expected to pick up sharply tomorrow to 20-25 knots gusting up to 30 knots and crossing the open waters of the Sound, which leads out into the Atlantic, in these kinds of conditions would be uncomfortable at best and potentially dangerous. Crossing now means not having to wait out the winds for a day, putting us into Savannah a day earlier.

Being chased by clouds across St Catharine’s Sound…

We again opt to push on, crossing the sound and as we reach the other side, we start searching our charts for a good anchorage for the night. As I am describing one to Cindy, who is at the helm, I mention that “its near the marina”. “Marina?!”, Cindy asks. See, this is where two heads are better than one. I’m thinking “hey, we don’t do marinas anymore! We anchor out!”. So I’m not even thinking about what that means. Cindy on the other hand thinks “shore power”! If they have room for us and an electrical hookup, we can start our engines in the morning no problem.

I call the marina and get a yes on both questions and 1½ hours later we dock at Kilkenny Creek marina. It’s a “homey” place, to say the least, with a very wobbly homemade floating dock, some fairly weathered electric power boxes and industrial fishing detritus strewn about but for us its heaven sent. The owner is very nice and helpful, and the marina is tucked away in a very peaceful, quiet backwater creek a couple of miles off the main waterway. We get tied up, hook up to power, fire up the A/C, grill a couple of rib-eyes and settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Kilkenny Marina

The following morning the wind builds as predicted while we wait, timing our departure so that we pass Hell’s Gate, a shallow spot in the waterway where many a boat has run aground, near high tide. I take advantage of the time to go over our engines, something I normally do each day before we take off but that had been neglected due to the previous morning’s excitement. When I check the port engine, I notice some water in the front of the engine hold, about 2 quarts total…not good. I dip a finger in it and taste salt. With no sign that the saildrive seals have failed (serious!), I suspect the raw water cooling loop is leaking. I ask Cindy to crank up the engine and soon see a slow but steady drip coming from the pump.

I tighten the hose clamps, hoping its just a loose hose connection that’s allowing water out but, no dice. The drip is coming from the shaft at the back of the pump housing, indicating that the shaft seal is failing. Nothing I can fix, the pump needs to be replaced.

That said, its also not a bad leak. It’s slow and there is still plenty of sea water getting pumped through the engine cooling system. As long as it doesn’t get rapidly worse, we should be fine given that we only have about a 5-hour run to get to Savannah, where we can easily get a replacement. Getting the pump replaced out in the middle of nowhere is not a real option, either. Given that, we again opt to press on.

At this point I am realizing how far we’ve come. Our first season on the water, we always stayed at a dock, would “rest up” for 2-3 days after each short hop and wouldn’t even consider going out if the wind was over 10 knots. Now here we were, bad batteries, no generator, leaky water pump, a 20-knot wind pinning us against the dock, no idea what else might go wrong with the boat today and we’re like “yeah, let’s just go”. Not quite up to Captain Ron status yet but we’re getting there.

Stay tuned next week for the final chapter of our northward run…