The Cure for Dock Itch

We’ve now been docked here at Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head for three full months, and it’s about time for a change of scenery.  Don’t get me wrong. We love it here.  The marina, the people of Hilton Head, the fellow boaters, are all admirable.  And there’s nothing quite like the sight of a trio of dolphins playing joyfully in your bow wave:Dolphin trio crif.jpg

But it’s definitely time to get underway on our big adventure, the primary reason for which we purchased this boat.

To be sure, we’ve had our share of events and circumstances that have slowed us down.  But at long last, we now have a tender and outboard engine that are fully functional:Tender ready to go

We have some very groovy new hats with the boat’s name and hailing port embroidered on them:Joy Girl hats red stone

Everything that we can think of to work on (for now…) has been done.  We’re presently the proud owners of six brand new house batteries (to run most all things electrical on the boat when we’re not in a marina), a functional and legal anchor light for peaceful nights on the hook, and a growing and eclectic collection of spare parts and supplies, none of which will I waste your time with pictures of.

Yes, the itch to get going is getting stronger by the day.  Last night, just for the halibut, we slipped our dock lines and headed out for an impromptu sunset cruise.  It was mostly just an excuse to get out of the marina, but I guess God approved of our decision, as our efforts were rewarded with this glorious view which Niki captured from the pilothouse of Joy Girl:Sunset flare 04-24-2018.jpg

Ashore, the urge to get out and go somewhere or do something is often referred to as “cabin fever”.   But on a boat, many terms are a bit different, and I felt this one needed a nautical translation as well.  Like this Anhinga sitting on our dock, spreading his wings and running his final preflight checklist before takeoff, I believe we are finally ready to go!Diving bird ready to fly off pier after drying wings

So I came up with a new term to describe the irresistible urge to leave the docks and friends of Shelter Cove Marina and be on our way.  I call it…Dock Itch!

And now, it’s about time to go scratch that itch!

 

 

 

How Lowwwww Can You Go?

As an inland lake sailor who grew up sailing the waters of Wisconsin and then those in and around Colorado and the Caribbean, the word “tide” to me mostly referred to the laundry detergent my mom preferred (and that kids now allegedly eat).  The idea of water getting noticeably deeper and shallower twice every day simply was not part of my boating background.

Now we’re living on a boat less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean as the seagull flies and about 5 miles by water, so tides are very much a part of our lives.  Our tides here at Shelter Cove Marina average about 7 feet, twice each day.  That means the view from our boat of the ramp to the wharf on land typically varies from something like this:20180201_090645

to something about like this about every 6 hours and 15 minutes:20180201_152725

Occasionally the full moon teams up with Mr. Sun to exaggerate the high and low tides, and yesterday we had a pair of exceptionally low tides.  One took place in the middle of the night as we lay sleeping, the second occurred mid afternoon to share with us all its (in this case, rather ugly) glory.  Here was the view we suffered off our stern at low tide:20180302_145551.jpg

The surface you see exposed is a nasty, gooey muck called “pluff (or plough) mud”, accurately described on one website as “a Carolina Lowcountry entity — the slippery, shiny brown-gray, sucky mud, with a distinctive smell like none other”.  I couldn’t begin to better describe this disgusting stuff myself!

Things tend to sink into this slop as if it were quicksand, but if enough of it is present and the water recedes far enough, even a 35,000 pound boat can be pushed up out of the goo.

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This is the stern (back) of Joy Girl, sitting nearly a foot higher than she normally would (the normal waterline is just below the red “boot stripe”).  She is so stranded that the stern thruster (the tube under the swim platform) which is normally totally under water is now almost fully exposed.  The water intake for our heating and cooling units is just forward of that on the other side of the boat, so they were totally unusable for about 3 hours.  Providentially, we were blessed by glorious weather that required neither heat nor AC that day.

Fortunately, dredging operations to deepen the entire harbor are proceeding 7 days a week, and last night the boats on the other side of our dock were moved to make way for the dredging crew.  Our side of “K Dock” is on deck after that, so with any luck we should be in deep water (the best kind!) in about a week!

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The Bitter End

We’ve reached the bitter end. It was a struggle, and we worked very hard, but we’ve reached the end of our rope.

If you speak nautical, then you know I’m referring to the end of our anchor line, which is called “the bitter end”.  In the old days, anchor lines were tied to “bitts” on the deck, hence the name. Our bitter end is housed in a cabinet at the head of our bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, we untangled our anchor line and spray painted it every 30 feet so we know how far it’s plunging into the water when we “anchor out”. Since Joy Girl is fully self sufficient we can drop our anchor instead of docking at a marina every night.

 

 

 

 

 

Since the anchor weighs 45 pounds and might damage the boat as it swings aboard, we slathered bright red paint on the last five feet of chain so I know when it’s about to be hauled onto Joy Girl.  Poor little Niki is responsible for dropping and weighing (pulling back in) the anchor…yes, I’m really that strong!

Actually, it’s all electronic and I simply step on a black pad that controls the “windlass”, which is from the Old Norse vindáss, literally meaning ‘winding pole.’

 

So, mateys, indeed we are at the bitter end, but our journey has just begun!

First Kitty Cruise

Today we woke up early and took our first cruise with the kitties! When Craig fired up the big diesel engine both cats fled down to their favorite hiding place, a dark, cozy corner under the downstairs navigation desk.

After we left the marina, I pulled Scully out first since she is the braver, more curious kitty. At first she hid her eyes under my arms and refused to look around, but when she realized the ride was quite steady and slow, she popped her head out and was soon exploring without complaint.

Then I extricated Roswell, my sweet lover boy who has serious scaredy-cat tendencies. He shook a little when he first saw the water rushing by outside the window but after snuggling in my arms for a while he settled right down. Soon he was confident enough to drive the boat with Daddy.

After we docked the boat, which requires opening doors, throwing lines, bow and stern thruster noise, and Craig and I stomping around the boat, we thought we’d come back in to find the kitties hiding below decks again. But no, they were both sitting comfortably on the pilothouse couch, happy as two little clams. We’re happy to say the first kitty cruise was a success!

Joy Girl Gets (more) Ready To Go

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A few weeks ago Joy Girl was hauled out at Palmetto Bay Yacht Center to get a fresh coat of bottom paint and “prop speed” (coatings which keep crud and critters from adhering to her bottom), a process that we hope won’t have to be repeated for several years now that she – and we – will be on the move much more.  To say it’s a bit disquieting to see one’s 35,000 pound boat dangling in the air, supported by but two straps, is quite the understatement!

It’s a lot less intimidating to look at her on stands during the paint job (with thanks for the following two pictures to our friend, Captain Shawn Minahan).

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As long as we had Joy Girl up and out of the water, we also replaced the seals on the propeller and the rudder shafts, making sure she is once again water tight and will remain so for the foreseeable future, as the parts and labor are far from inexpensive! We had several anti corrosive “zincs” (see picture below) changed out as well, all in the effort to more fully prepare her for the journey ahead.

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With some luck, we’ll be back aboard Joy Girl in about a month…maybe even less.  We can hardly wait!

Christening Joy Girl

In December we christened Joy Girl in Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head Island!

All traces of her old name (Rambler) were removed and her new name was unveiled. My cousin Shari and her mother Nancy were very thoughtful and brought us a bottle of champagne, which we used to sprinkle Joy Girl after praying to the Lord (and Neptune!) for safety at sea and fun aboard.

Neptune, the god of the sea, stands in the midst of our marina as working sun dial. We thought it might not be a bad idea to ask for his graces…