We spent the last couple of weeks in the UK relaxing and preparing for our return to Sol Purpose. We got most of our UK Christmas gifts bought, wrapped and mailed off (so organised!), and I made a few more Christmas items for the upcoming craft fair. We contacted the marina to see where things stood with the repairs and booked in for the remaining work that needed to be done (more of that later).
One thing we had planned to do in Bristol was try one of the many Escape Rooms that have sprung up recently. The one we selected was Puzzlair. We chose the Secret Agent Room, which as you can guess is a James Bond themed room. There were a lot more puzzles to solve and some were a lot more devious than the ones we had experienced in the New Bern Escape Room. Added to that, this time it was just the two of us, rather than 6 people. We needed to get a few clues, but we made it out within the hour! Next time we go, we want to get a group together and try to break out of the prison van (take a look at the website!).
The next week we went to the Concorde exhibit at the Bristol Aerospace Museum. Concorde was designed and built between France and the UK and the last concorde to fly is on display here. It was great to walk through the plane and learn details about the ridiculous design and build costs that were incurred. That was only eclipsed by the amazing details of the planes engineering and performance.
We also had a great night catching up with Sue & Dave Harding and Debbie Haynes. I worked with Sue and Debbie many years ago, before I left for the USA. It was a great trip down memory lane! See you next time I’m back!
We rounded off the 4 month trip just as we started it, with an evening at Avery’s, tasting wine and watching a classic movie – this time, a Cary Grant classic, Arsenic and Old Lace. Cary Grant, then known as Archibald Leach, was born in Bristol and is one of the city’s favorite sons.
On Tuesday, October 31st, at the totally unacceptable hour of 4am, we headed to Bristol Airport to start the mammoth trip back to Sol Purpose. Flight 1 was to Brussels, then Flight 2 to Newark. That was all fairly uneventful and we arrived in New Jersey at around 2:30pm. We picked up a rental car and headed for North Carolina. Moray was a trooper and drove the first 6 hours, so that I could grab some sleep. Then I took over for the last part of the journey. Given that it was halloween, we looked out for ghosties and beasties all the way back, but all we saw were several deer, just as we approached Wayfarers Cove Marina. We pulled into the marina at around 1am, climbed up a ladder into the boat, and crashed in the rear quarter berth for a few hours sleep.
Jet lagged, but needing to get on, we realised the holiday was over! Before Sol Purpose could be put back into the water, the propshaft drip seal needed to be replaced. We had started on this task before we left, but had been unable to complete it. The boatyard guys had worked on removing the old seal while we were away, but we needed to replace the seal ourselves. After a couple of hours of Moray working from inside the tiny engine room space, while I stood outside under the boat, we got it done.
While Moray was working on various little tasks, I moved some things around so that I could unpack and put our bags back into the storage below our bed. That meant I had enough room to move other items to the rear quarter berth, and make up our bed.
One of the problems of being on boat that is out of the water is that there .is no a/c which makes cooking on board almost unbearable. Added to that, the fact that we had not yet replaced the water tank, so we had no water for cooking, and couldn’t drain water out into the boatyard, meant that meals would be sandwiches or takeout. Wayfarers Cove Marina, while very pretty and with an excellent boatyard, is literally miles from anywhere, making takeout totally impractical. Luckily, Gail and Bill on Spireserpula, who we had met in the Bahamas, were also out of the water in the boatyard, and had found some restaurants. We thankfully joined them for dinner and enjoyed catching up with their adventures over the summer. Then we headed back to the marina and up to the boaters’ lounge to watch game 7 of the World Series. Woohoo! Finally! The Astros did it!!!!! Very tired, but elated, we headed back to the boat and spent the first night in our own bed in over 4 months!
The only thing left to do before putting Sol Purpose back where she belongs was to finish the bottom paint job. The boatyard had done most of this just before we came back, but the last part – painting the patches where the stands had been – is done once the boat is back in the sling. The original plan was to do this on Thursday, but the boatyard is a very busy one, and when we realised that they weren’t going to get to us that day, we did the only thing we could – we got in the car and drove to New Bern to go to Duelling Pianos at Circa 1810, with Bob and Claire!
The revised plan was to get back in the water on Friday, but unfortunately, the boat lift broke that morning. By the time the repair was done, it was too late to get the painting done and dried, so we resigned ourselves to waiting until Monday. This was very frustrating as we had planned to spend the weekend installing the new tanks and getting the subfloor replaced, once back in the water.
On Saturday morning, we noticed that there was a gantry not being used in the boatyard. We put it up against the side of the boat and figured that we should be able to lift the tanks up to the two platforms and then into the boat. I was not too keen on this, but we pressed on and managed to get the new diesel tank on board and into place relatively simply. Inspired by that, we moved on to the water tank and got it into place. That meant that Moray was able to plumb everything in, while I drove to Oriental to fill the jerry cans with diesel. I made one run, and we emptied the cans into the new tank, with fingers crossed that nothing leaked. Everything was great, so I headed back and refilled all the jerry cans. While I was away, Moray closed up the inspection hatch on the fuel tank, which we had left open during the first fill so we could see that everything was working properly. We started to pour the next can in, when suddenly Moray yelled for cloths etc. Diesel was not going into the tank, but down the side of the boat. After a few minutes of panic, he figured that the only difference was that the inspection hatch was now closed, so the problem must be the tank vent. He reopened the hatch and the problem was resolved. On further investigation, he discovered that the tank vent had become clogged by a mud dauber, a wasp that builds its nest using mud. It had got into the thru hull vent during the summer and done its thing! Once that was cleared out, the problem was completely resolved.
Next, Moray reconnected the water tank and water maker, before working on the final fitting of the plywood subfloor. It took a few lifts in and out, with a little sanding each time, but eventually it fit perfectly. This made walking around the boat so much easier!
Monday came, and I headed off to the boaters’ lounge to watch TV and knit, as I would not be able to be on board when they lifted the boat. At around 3:30pm, the paint was dry and the time had come! Slowly, Sol Purpose was lowered into the water, the motor started and we made our way round to a slip. We were finally back in the water!
The only task left to be done while in Wayfarers Cove was to replace the teak and holly veneer. As this needed to be matched up to the veneer in the forward cabin and galley, we hired a professional, Rick Vogt. He was great and gave us lots of advice for refinishing the existing veneer, which we planned to do ourselves. He was held up by the weather to begin with as it rained for a couple of days, making it impossible for him to bring the veneer to the boat. Once it stopped, though, he got the veneer measured, cut and into the boat as quickly as possible. I have to say, it looked amazing, which showed just how bad the rest was!
During the work with Rick we got a message from Ron and Karen, two friends who stayed on the same dock as us in Kemah. They left to go cruising three years ago and were heading back down the ICW towards Florida in their Benetau, Polite Compromise. They found out where we were and turned up at Wayfarers the next day. We went out for dinner that night and went to Duelling Pianos the following night with Bob and Clare.
That Saturday we took our rental car and drove to Washington (NC) to meet Al, a cruiser friend we had met last winter in the Bahamas. He was on the hard in New Bern working on his boat, Stout Wench, before heading South to the Bahamas again.
On Wednesday, with our fingers crossed, I helped Moray cast off and leave the slip, to single-hand the boat to New Bern. Once he left, I drove to the airport at New Bern and turned in the car. Claire picked me up and took me back to New Bern Grand Marina, where we waited for Moray to arrive. His journey up was thankfully uneventful. He switched between the two tanks with no issue, so that was great! Having the increased fuel capacity of the boat, from 60 gallons to 140 gallons, is going to make our future cruising plans so much easier. If you are interested in the full details of the tank project see the following blogs…
Thursday morning, Moray headed up to the boaters’ lounge to do some last minute study for his FCC Technicians exam. I started work on removing the varnish from the teak and holly veneer in the forward cabin and the hatch covers. After a few hours, I cleaned everything up and prepared for Moray’s birthday celebration. Bob and Claire came over for a light meal and a cocktail. Then we headed to the Bear Town Escape Room where we escaped from Poe’s Study. That was a lot of fun, and we got out with 14 minutes to spare. From there, we went for a meal and then for a few drinks at Prohibition, our favourite bar in New Bern. It was a great evening, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself.
It was back to reality the next day, with Moray spending one last day studying and doing practice exams, while I removed more varnish, this time from the galley floor. On Saturday morning, Moray headed off to Morehead City to sit his exam, which I am very happy to announce, he passed! He is now able to broadcast on the SSB, another big step needed for our trans-Atlantic crossing.
By the end of the day, the floors were clear of the old varnish, and had been treated to remove as many of the water stains as possible. They would have to sit for a couple of days to dry out properly, before we would be able to start on the re-varnishing. We were trying to figure out how to do this, while living on the boat, as we wouldn’t be able to walk on the floors for several hours each day. Moray contacted Tom and Joy, and they kindly agreed to let us stay on their boat, Belle Ile, which is in the same marina, up for sale. This was an absolute godsend, and we can’t thank them enough for their generosity.
Over the next week, we sanded and applied a coat of varnish each day, before heading over to Belle Ile each night to sleep. As cooking wasn’t an option, we made the most of a number of the eateries in town, apart from Thanksgiving. Beth, from Happy Girl, organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for the marina, and about 30 people attended. Bob and Clare joined us for the dinner and then a few hardy souls braved the chilly weather to sit around a fire pit, drinking beers and getting to know each other’s sailing past. It was a lot of fun!
The enforced exile from the boat gave us a good excuse to walk up into town and look at the Christmas decorations, especially the Santa’s grotto, with falling snow! It was magical!
Once the 8 coats of varnish were applied and dried, we were able to empty out the storage unit and put our home back together. There’s nothing like sitting on your own sofa, watching TV! That done, we set to finishing off a few tasks, such as repairing some broken zippers on the enclosure, and replacing the rusted out clips on the dinghy straps. Moray cleaned up the dinghy and attached some patches to protect the sides from chafing on the davits, while I made a cover to protect the gas can from the elements.
All this time, we were watching the weather and were excited to be getting ready to leave around December 7th, the same time as last year. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and as the leaving date approached, the weather window disappeared. Oh the joys of sailing – never make plans! Resigned to the fact that our departure would be delayed, we put together some alternative routes and started looking forward to those. But now, it has been raining for the last few days, and we have both had colds, so we’ve had an enforced stay inside the boat. It’s actually been nice – watching TV (both of us) and knitting (just me!). Oh, and of course, watching our friends’ posts about the snow in Houston!
Our current hope is to star tour southward trip in two days – fingers crossed!