16 October, 2018

“If anything’s gonna happen, its gonna happen out there”
Captain Ron

Cindy turns the key to start Just One Dance’s port engine and…nothing. Shite!! The starboard engine started sluggishly before catching, but we don’t even hear the starter solenoid closing on the port one.

We were worried about this. Our boat had been sitting at the dock at Jekyll Island for about 16 months while we were back home making updates to our gym and working various yard projects around the house. We had decided to take a year off from cruising to give our business and our home the attention that both of them needed; squeezing everything in during the 2017 hurricane season wasn’t an option. I even went back to work starting February at my old company as a temp engineer once the main home projects had been finished with the understanding that we were sailing away again in November. In the interim, Cindy or I made visits to the boat to keep its various systems functioning and to keep it as clean as possible.

One last Jekyll Island sunset before taking off…

Still, when we arrived at the boat after Hurricane Michael passed to get ready to go off sailing again, JOD was looking decidedly rough. Its stainless metalwork was spotted with rust (its only technically stainless), its topsides were covered with bird poop, occupied spiderwebs festooned the lifelines, the decks were covered with grime and its bimini top was black with mildew. Honestly, like so many of the other boats at the dock that sit in place too long, she looked to us like a derelict.

Our plan was to spend 3 days getting our boat ready and then head up to Savannah over the next 3 days to haul out at Thunderbolt Marine for bottom painting, servicing our engines and saildrives and a few other fixes and improvements before sailing down to the Keys. We spent the time at the Jekyll dock cleaning, scrubbing and prepping the boat’s various systems. Thing was, we knew the starter batteries were iffy…a couple of months ago, both engine batteries and the generator’s starter battery were all dead as a doornail from having sat idle so long. We brought them back by recharging them from shore power but we had our concerns about whether these 4 year old batteries would be reliable from here on out.

Since we were still connected to shore power, we went to the control panel, flipped on the battery charger and tried again. The port engine roared to life, confirming that the battery was the issue. Now we had a decision to make…do we press on to Savannah and fix our battery issues there or order new batteries, wait for them to arrive, install them ourselves (already done once, not a pleasant job given the weight and cramped conditions) and risk losing our haul out window in Savannah?

We opted to shove off and rely on our diesel generator to provide power for starting our engines if the batteries didn’t hold their charge overnight. We had a short hop to make on our first day to one of our favorite anchorages at Buttermilk Sound and if our engines wouldn’t start, we were within easy reach of our buddy Rich who runs the TowBoatUS service in the Brunswick area.

In spite of our nerves, the first day’s run was wonderful; it was hot, sunny, the sky was a sapphire blue and it felt good to be back on the water again. Both engines purred along, propelling us through the beautiful, undeveloped marshlands of the Georgia low country. Jack and Max, the two new cats that we had acquired during our time ashore, were pretty unsure about the sounds of our engines but later in the day started venturing around the boat.

Jack and Max hiding under the salon table…

In the late afternoon we dropped anchor at a deserted Buttermilk Sound, grilled up chicken for dinner and settled with a drink to listen to the quiet, interrupted only by the mournful sounds of the marsh loons. Once the breeze died and the biting gnats started coming out, we closed up the salon, crossed our fingers, said a little prayer and fired up the generator. It started up, though not without giving us a scare when the cooling water didn’t immediately start flowing. Our plan was to leave it running all night to charge the batteries, power our A/C and turn it off after we got the engines running.

We go to turn on our anchor light and find out that its not working. Further testing reveals that our navigation lights aren’t coming on either. We’re really beginning to wonder how many things will go wrong on our boat during this trip.

Early the next morning, I was out on deck getting things set up for raising our anchor and Cindy was inside the salon working. Suddenly, the generator just dies. No warning, no sputtering, it just stops. I look up to see if Cindy stopped it intentionally for some reason, but no, it just died on its own. We try a couple of restarts but no dice. It has plenty of fuel but we can’t get it to even turn over. Shite!

Missy, back in her element

Our options are limited; either our engines start with the charge they have or we’re calling our buddy Rich for a tow. Cindy and I begin talking about how much we want to continue sailing! We finish prepping to get underway, cross our fingers, say a little prayer and turn the key on the port engine. She turns over sluggish, but she starts. Starboard starts easily.

We breathe a sigh of relief and weigh our options; we can press on but with no generator we have little guarantee and only faint hope that the port engine will start in the morning. We can turn around and go back but then we’re in the same dilemma with our haul out. Again, we opt to press on, figuring we can still get a tow if we need it the next morning and we’ll be that much closer to Savannah where we can get our batteries replaced…