Day 3: Cape May

We made it to Cape May. We dealt with the engine problem by just not using it (until the Cape May canal, of course, when it failed once…it was quick to restart).

I once heard it said that the Delaware Bay is not cruised, but endured. Truth. The sailing was spirited. The Mal de mer unwelcome. The weather forecast was East winds 5 to 10 knots. My anemometer is not working; but the good folks at Utsch’s Marina (our home for tonight) told us that the wind was around 30 knots and everyone was getting beat up. I suppose we feel better knowing that we weren’t alone.

Still, we sailed fast. We remained safe. And we are going to sleep real well tonight.

Tomorrow I’m going to try and get a diesel mechanic to help me locate the problem with the engine. Air is getting in somewhere. I’m sure, given time, I could find the culprit. But it is time to stop mucking with the beast and for us to get on with the trip. So far it’s been too much worry and work. Hopefully, sometime tomorrow we will depart for Martha’s Vineyard. It’s time to start enjoying the cruise.

2014 Cruise, Day 2: Through the C&D

I’m tired. I’ll write this quickly while everything is fresh in my head; but coherence may suffer tonight…

For those boaters with reliable engines, I have three words for you…

I. Hate. You.


No, not really. I am however a little envious.

Today we made it through the C&D canal. The engine only failed twice, or maybe three times, going through the canal. At one point we were about to go under a bridge, which was a little dicey. But I am getting really good at bleeding the engine and can usually get it running within a couple of minutes.

On the way into the canal we were beset by forty or more high performance boats zipping out on a poker run, with spotter helicopters chasing from probably thirty feet off the deck. Woke us up for certain.

We did get waked pretty bad by an inconsiderate family in an overpowered cruising boat. We probably rolled thirty degrees port to thirty degrees starboard a dozen times. Anything not strapped down (and a lot wasn’t…we were in the canal, not open water after all) was thrown across the cabin. A bottle of blueberry juice was amongst the litter. The juice sprayed across the entire cabin, including the ceiling. We were annoyed.

Happily, the rest of the canal was a pleasant experience. Unhappily, it is really hard to talk about things that are boringly pleasant. Clearly, bad news is more interesting.

Our intent today was to stop behind Reedy Island (on the Delaware River) for the night. We got there so early, though, that stopping just seemed silly, so we decided to keep on going to shorten what would otherwise be a very long leg to Cape May.

I’ve been spoiled sailing the Chesapeake. I forgot about currents. The Delaware River was at times running north of two knots against us. It didn’t turn to our favor until late in the day. This made progress slow. With light winds, and a fluky engine, progress was really really slow. By 18:00, the wind had filled in a bit, and the tide had turned so when the engine next failed we just decided to leave it off and deal with it in the morning. Around 20:30 we made it to our home for the night, the rather exposed, but adequate Cohansey Cove. We anchored (under sail) on the eastern side to protect ourselves from the expected NE winds. So far it seems fine. I let out lots of scope on the anchor, just in case.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to make another attempt at figuring out what is going on with the engine, and then we are off to Cape May.

2014 Cruise, Day 1

Day one on our trip north, after a one day late start…

This morning I awoke at 6:30, jumped in the car, and got to the Yanmar dealer in Annapolis just when they opened up. I got the stupid bleed screw back to the boat, a quick engine repair, water tank fill, and ice replenishment later, we left the dock right around 10:30 AM.

Around 10:50 the engine died.

Tightened things, re-bled the system, and we were underway before long.

Not far from Pooles Island, the engine died again.

Frustrating, to be sure. So, we check the fuel system front to back and notice a lot of gunk in the Racor prefilter’s water separator. Oddly, when I was doing engine maintenance in prep for this trip I didn’t change this filter out (I’m not sure what I was thinking), so a quarter mile from Pooles Island it got done. And the engine worked!

Mostly anyhow. Periodically during the day the engine would lose RPMs, and after a few minutes would start running OK. Not too far from our anchorage for the evening the motor did slow enough to stall out. I bled the system (I’m getting really good at it…it took less than three minutes and I’m sure I can cut that in half), and the engine worked perfectly for the rest of the day.

We are now happily anchored in a little cove called Veazey off of the mouth of the Bohemia River, a short trip to the C&D canal. Lauren is making dinner as I type. I’m thinking a little swim might be in order later.

But what about tomorrow? We must transit the C&D under power.

I think we are going to go for it. What ever the problem is, bleeding the system seems to make the engine run fine. At least for awhile. Air is getting in somewhere (I suspect through the fuel filter…perhaps it needs a new O-ring), and I swear I’ll find the culprit eventually. In the meantime, if we need to do a fire drill every few hours I think we’ll be fine. Honestly, at this point I think we can bleed the fuel system before we lose steerage.

Not ideal, maybe; but that is what adventure is all about. Over coming obstacles.

Spot Connect

I have a SPOT Connect device:

It’s a clever little variant of the SPOT Tracker device that allows not only tracking, and sending check-in/I’m Ok and Help messages, but very short text messages (43 characters, as I recall) as well when linked to an android or iPhone. I bought it a couple of years ago when I was first planning on sailing to Martha’s Vineyard in my little Seafarer 24. Finally, hopefully, in a few days I’ll be able to put it to its’ intended purpose as Lauren and I are planning on departing Thursday for a month-long cruise to southern New England waters. My SPOT tracking page is here. I’ll also have it updating Twitter (@b29seeker), which I may add to the sidebar here.

SPOT is pretty cool. But I also find it horribly frustrating. A public SPOT forum doesn’t appear to exist where the developers pay attention to users, so I thought I’d throw my list of gripes here.

  • The shared page will only hold a maximum of SEVEN days worth of check-ins. Seven days? I can’t contemplate a real reason for this very, very short limitation. Presumably, a great many SPOT users are using it for more than just an afternoon or a weekend at a time. I’d like to see them hold the data for at least a month, better a year, and best forever (or until I delete it). Each check-in is very small. Online storage is cheap. I can think of no practical advantage to such a short retention time, and lots of reasons for much longer retention times.
  • The web page is kludgy. It is hard to navigate. It is SLOW. Logged in IDs time out far too fast. Often times clicking on a link just never connects and it becomes necessary to try several times (often getting logged out in the process). This isn’t 1995. Upgrade your servers!
  • Tracking is frustrating. First, when you set tracking it only runs for 24 hours before it must be reset. Second, I believe if you have tracking set it will automatically send a signal every 10 minutes. This is way too often for a sailboat. For hikers it is way, way too often. It just clogs up the tracking page, and burns batteries. Happily, this has been apparently corrected in the Gen3 Spot where it is now selectable at 2 1/2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I would like to see a completely customizable setup; but this is much better than it was. Apparently it also only sends a tracking signal when it detects movement and it no longer has the 24 hour restriction. Much better. I don’t see a gen3 Connect with this feature, yet, though. I keep hoping a software update will come along and fix it. If not, this change in feature alone might be enough to get me to change to a regular gen3 SPOT at some point.
  • Sending messages could be improved a bit. The communicator seems to work fine for sending messages when linked to a bluetooth enabled phone. However, what happens if the phone goes swimming, or otherwise dies? There is an SOS button on the Communicator. In the next version I would also like to see a check/in button, and maybe even the custom message and tracking buttons that exist on the regular SPOT. The cell phone is fine and dandy; but now there are two points of failure. Not good. I’d hate for people at home to panic unnecessarily just because my phone died and I couldn’t send I’m Ok messages or restart the tracker after 24 hours.
  • And speaking of bluetooth…My laptop has bluetooth. Why isn’t there software so that I can control the Spot Connect from my laptop? Seems obvious.
  • For reasons I can’t figure out, even though I’ve configured it over and over, my updates just aren’t ending up on Facebook. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a Facebook issue, and they are just blocking the messages as unimportant or something. Pisses me off, though, as I’ve spent too much time trying to get it to work.
  • An API would be nice so that it could be nicely integrated with WordPress and other software. Just a small request. It would be nice to be able to display the tracking map right here in this post.
  • It would also be nice to be able to track someone using an Android/iPhone app, instead of having to go to the shared web page.
  • I hesitate to add this since it isn’t SPOT’s fault; but if anyone is reading this list and contemplating getting one of these devices they should be aware that there are some dead spots in the world. It is a limitation of the satellite network that they use. Most of the world is covered, though. If you are planning a sail to the South Pacific or something, though, you might have a problem. Their current coverage map is here. There are some alternatives that use the world-wide Iridium satellite network; but I believe they are more expensive. Use what works best for you.

Otherwise, it is a neat device. I’m looking forward to using it for real on my upcoming trip.