Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun! AHHHHHHH!
We found out Story Time’s hull is in need of SERIOUS work. Below is the video that made me want to cry.
How on earth did this happen? We pride ourselves of taking excellent care of our boat, and this, quite frankly, is embarrassing.
To start with, our old diver at Gottschalk marina was not upfront with us about the state of our hull for the past few years. He also used the wrong tools for cleaning, leaving huge scratches in our paint and letting black algae grow. We had no idea we were down to bare on some parts of our keel, and it is beyond frustrating that we were not told this until we found a new diver at Bay Point marina to give us the scoop (and the video). A huge thank-you to Jason at Deep Blue Marine Solutions for the diagnostic.
Some of the responsibility is on us, of course. We should have had Story Time hauled out last summer at the 3-year mark, but the pandemic and baby on the way complicated things.
After a good, long panic about it, we have already found a boatyard to take her out at in June to get some work done. Hauling out is even more of a pain when you live aboard, because now not only are we on the hook for our Bay Point slip, but also the yard slip AND somewhere else to stay for the yet-to-be-determined duration of the rehab work. Fingers crossed it will only take a few weeks, but we might be in it for the long haul (out).
We feel the true meaning of the word ‘boat’ as we aim to put the entirety of our tax return toward Story Time’s pre-season maintenance. This past week, the bimini and dodger got some TLC from Little Bay Canvas. They replaced a few pieces of cracked Eisenglass, tightened seams, and fixed hardware (Cost: $650). Then, West Marine had a 30% off dock lines sale, so OF COURSE we had to get in on that as well. Some of our dock lines came with our boat when we bought it, so we were past due to replace them all (Cost: $415).
Next items on our list:
New seals on hatch windows
Possibly haul out+antifouling on hull
Troubleshoot chart plotter
Patch the dinghy
Clean anchor chain
Service AC unit
Change oil/fuel filter
Power wash deck
Replace fresh water pump
Clean cockpit lockers (yuck)
Some of this is yearly maintenance, some of it should be done every 3 to 5 years. This will be our 4th summer on the boat, so we have to start thinking about the long-term chores that we’ve been avoiding up until now (thanks, babies!)
What’s really killing me is having to spend so much time doing all this when we haven’t left the dock in four months. Expenses don’t feel quite as painful when we can get out and actually enjoy the boat for its intended purpose, but the weather has been absolute crazypants this winter/spring. This week alone it went from 82 degrees and 30mph wind to 45 degrees within 12 hours.
It can’t be anchor outs and sundowners all the time, I guess. Hopefully, we will toast to getting this massive list completed before the sailing season really kicks off. To inspire us to get our butts in gear, we have been watching SV Delos from the beginning on YouTube. I’d seen their videos here and there over the years, but never consecutively. They are basically the OG cruising vloggers and have been going strong for over a decade. With our own cruising dreams within grasp now that Conor is no longer active duty military, I’m starting to get a little giddy. After all, who can put a price on dreams?
Sometimes I feel like a bloodhound on Story Time. I’m actually more useful than Scout! For whatever reason, anytime there is a problem on the boat, I usually smell it first. Conor lives in fear of when I catch a scent, because inevitably, it leads to more boat problems for him to fix.
I saved our butts twice when our AC electrical box overheated. In October, the central air was running, and it suddenly smelled like bacon. I called Conor at work and made him come home. At first it seemed like an overreaction, but it was discovered that one of the wires had started to melt and it was a fire risk. The second time it happened (in January), the fuse holder overheated at 3am. My brain screamed at me that something wasn’t right, and I woke up from a dead sleep to that same scent. For anyone freaking out right now, we now have a new Mermaid Air AC electrical box. Even the manufactures couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it—it was just some freak thing! It had been working fine for 2 years before and suddenly decided to crap out. Very scary!
In other instances:
Conor cooking on the stove. Me: “Babe, the propane is low.” Him: “Did you check it today?” Me: “No, I just smell the difference.” Lo and behold, time to change the tank.
Opening the fridge. “Oh shit. R must have kicked the switch panel during his diaper change.” Yep. Thankfully, it was off less than 2 hours and we didn’t lose the groceries.
Watching TV. “Bilge pump isn’t working.” I guessed it. The automatic float switch stopped working (suuuuuper old) and needed a replacement. I scrubbed the bilge after Conor wired in a new one.
And everyone’s favorite: “Holding tank is getting full.” “I don’t smell anything!” “We have three more flushes. Trust me.”
To sum up: boats are quirky and have unique smells. If you are tuned into them, it can warn you of minor problems before they become MAJOR problems. I’ve lived in fear of COVID for obvious reasons, but what really petrifies me is the possibility of losing my sense of smell! I never realized how much I’ve relied on it to sense the inner workings of the boat until there was a chance I could lose it. Counting down the days until I can get the vaccine.
We can STAY! After signing our permanent slip lease at Bay Point Marina this week, we get to stay in the land of beautiful bathrooms, a pool, restaurant, pump out service, short work commute, beach, brewery, and park. If you put down every wish list item we had in mind for a marina (including pet-friendly!), this would be it.
We feel so incredibly lucky that they have allowed us to join their liveaboard community. When I called back in November, the dockmaster said that they were no longer adding any more liveaboard boats. For those that don’t know, marinas usually have a cap on how many liveaboards they can support and sustain. It isn’t about the slip availability, it is about the infrastructure to support people living there long term—laundry, pump outs, showers, garbage, parking…
The plan was to come up to Bay Point and stay in a transient slip for 30 days while we sorted out our new life in Virginia. Walking around, I wistfully said to Conor, “I just want to stay here so badly! It is perfect for the kids.” So, we took a chance and asked with our fingers crossed.
I was completely prepared to have to move to a different marina in January. It would have sucked big time to leave this awesome area, but honestly, I didn’t expect the owner to say yes. We are A LOT with two small kids and a dog. Our family is loud and a hot mess most of the time. By adding one boat, they were adding a dose of chaos yet unseen to this pristine marina.
Despite it all, they took us in. Maybe it was the sight of W scootering down the docks. Maybe it was Scout’s wagging tail. Maybe it was sweet R’s eyes peeking out from his stroller. Maybe it was the desperation of a mom on the edge. Regardless, we have a new marina to call home. Now I can breathe.
Highs: Such an easy travel day that we combined what would have been two short days into one long day and decided to take an extra day off at Dowry Creek Marina. They had FREE LAUNDRY and a pumpout service! Also squeezed in a grocery run with their complimentary marina car. I highly recommend this marina; their staff was great.
Lows: Bugs! It was very swampy in this section.
Final thoughts: This day gave us a taste of what it would have been like moving the boat just a few weeks earlier. It was incredible to have a few warm days and a full-service marina to get ourselves sorted halfway through the trip.
Day 7: Dowry Creek to Alligator River
Weather: Colder and windy
Travel time: 8 hours, 39NM
Highs: Hanging with my husband up in the cockpit while both the kids were napping. Music, snacks, and conversation. It felt like an afternoon date.
Lows: Alligator River Marina was terrible and had an unresponsive staff. The marina’s bathrooms were not cleaned recently and totally gross. We had to get ourselves off the dock the next morning in 30 mph winds that kept pushing us back. Definitely my least favorite stop of the trip.
Final thoughts: Having very little help casting off and docking the last few days made me see how far we have come as a team. We CAN do it with just the two of us.
Day 8: Alligator River to Elizabeth City
Weather: Gusty with large swells
Travel time: 6 hours, 30NM
Highs: Conor threaded the needle to get us into tiny Lamb’s Marina. It is a small stop just off the ICW and soooo narrow. Zero maneuvering room but he did great!
Lows: Got our asses handed to us in 4ft swells. Albamare Sound pounded us for almost three hours as we crossed over to Elizabeth River. W slept through most of it down in the v-berth and R was strapped to me in the cockpit.
Final thoughts: We got to see how Story Time experienced rougher waters. She did GREAT! I’m excited for us to sail offshore this summer.
Day 9: Elizabeth City to Norfolk
Weather: Cold and calm
Travel time: 9 hours, 37NM
Highs: Up at dawn to make the lock times! It was tricky to time leaving the marina with enough light, as well as factoring in the 2 hours it was going to take to make it to the first lock. We made it with 15 minutes to spare.
Lows: Our toilet had some issues. After a long day, the last thing we wanted to do was troubleshoot the head. Turns out there was significant calcium buildup in the discharge hose. Gross.
Final thoughts: This was the hardest day. We had to go though two locks with a tight timeframe and make it to the next stop before the sun went down. Being under a time crunch added a new level of stress to family travel. I’m glad the whole trip worked up to this day so we had enough experience to navigate it correctly.
Day 10: Norfolk to Virginia Beach
Weather: Cloudy, humid
Travel time: 5 hours, 27NM
Highs: The last day of travel! We arrived on Thanksgiving. SO much to be thankful for—boat, babies, and marriage were all in good shape.
Lows: It really hit me that we were no longer at Gottschalk. I didn’t know all my neighbors, W felt overwhelmed and was missing “home”, and we had to start over here. Moving is hard.
Final thoughts: Bay Point Marina is completely gorgeous. It has a pool, restaurant, hotel-like dock house, and is in the cutest neighborhood. After being on base for three years, it feels strange to have so much within walking distance. I can’t wait for COVID to be over and go do stuff.
And there you have it, our grand NC to VA adventure with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old. 245 Nautical Miles. It was the best trip ever! I don’t recommend it.
I’ll give you guys a little tour of our new spot next post. Time to get our feet under us and check some things off our boat chores list while we don’t have to travel for a while.