23. A Visit from Dad, Some Questionable Dining Choices, and a Deep Dive into My Poop System

Craptain’s log, stardate 2/4/20.

Life has been good aboard Sylphide since my last post. We departed Bofurt on a gray Friday morning, and enjoyed a relaxed cruise down to Mile Hammock Bay. I’m very pleased to report that we made it through the firing range at Camp Lejeune without being shot more than a handful of times.

The Mantus splashed down just as the rain started. The anchorage was extremely quiet. There was only one other boat there, a forty something foot sailboat with a mostly naked aluminum hull. I gave a friendly shout over, and discovered that my neighbor had come from France. After a short chat, the rain picked up, and we both retreated to the coziness of our cabins. I thoroughly enjoyed my night at anchor.

The next day dawned, and so began the trek to Wrightsville Beach. It was another gray day, as has come to be the default for this winter cruise. Intermittent light rain mixed with short spits of heavy drizzle came and went throughout the day. I broke out the bird ID app, and met some of my neighbors. The ubiquitous gulls, cormorants, and herons are now being joined by more and more pelicans, and more loons than you can shake a stick at.

Active Captain tells me that I should try to time the Figure Eight Bridge for the top of the hour opening, so that I wouldn’t need to rush to catch the Wrightsville Beach Bridge, which only opens on the hour.

I thoroughly failed to take this advice. I arrived at Figure Eight at quarter after, loitered for fifteen minutes, and got through on the half hour. I decided to try and make the four or so miles to the next one in the allotted 30 minutes. A tall order for this slow coach. I rousted ol’ Perkins out of his hammock, and prodded him along to a dizzying speed of… well… I’m not sure how many RPMs, since the tachometer only works on even days. Judging by the sound and feel, I’m guessing somewhere over 2,000 revs. We rocketed along at over eight knots, and it was exhilarating! The wind in my hair! The bees in my teeth! I FELT SO ALIVE!

But then my fun was spoiled by a tugboat, who just kinda ambled out into the middle of the channel, sat across it sideways, and didn’t answer his radio. Not really knowing what this jerk was up to, I just sat there on my thumbs, and waited for him to figure out what to do with himself. A few minutes later, another tug wandered out with a long section of dredge pipe, and started dragging it up the river.

Now that my chances of making the next bridge opening were thoroughly vanquished, I clutched her ahead, and idled the rest of the way, secretly hoping that I was inconveniencing the tugs as I lazily trundled past them.

I missed my opening by about ten minutes, and ended up driving in circles for more than 45, which couldn’t have bothered me less.

I got tied up at Wrightsville Beach marina a little after three in the afternoon, just before my father rolled into town. He’d finished up his visit to Florida, and was bound for the frozen north again. He’d be leaving his car in Wrightsville, and riding with me for a couple of days.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Bluewater Grill next to the marina, and spent the rest of the night hanging out on the boat, catching up.

Our trip down to Southport would be a nice short one, so we slept in a bit, and enjoyed some breakfast and coffee before getting underway around 10. The sun was out, and it was warm enough to open some doors, which made for a wonderful cruising day. We saw quite a few dolphins along the way, which excited us both muchly. We caught a fair tide through snow’s cut, and were practically on plane at 8.5 knots. That was averaged out when we found ourselves pushing against a 2 knot incoming tide on the Cape Fear River. Combined with a stiff breeze out of the SW, we dipped below five knots on a few occasions, and at one point, we could have played a game of risk in the amount of time it took us to pass a buoy. We were enjoying the ride though, and life could do with a few more obvious opportunities for a long game of Risk.

Dad was characteristically nervous on the ‘big water’ of the Cape Fear river, and we spent some time adjusting life jackets, and going over where the flares are stowed, and how to call for help on the radio. I calmed his nerves with an offering of smoked gouda.

Eventually Southport Marina hove into view, and we ventured in. Our assigned slip was around a couple of tight corners, and it became clear as I made my way into the first fairway, that with the wind blowing as hard as it was, I wouldn’t be making the attempt. Thankfully the dock staff saw that, and offered me a spot on the fuel dock. This was fortunate, because Sylphide seemed set on going there whether I wanted her to or not. We pressed our hooters into the dock, and were pinned there for the rest of the night.

Dad and I decided to head back up to Wrightsville Beach to get his car and bring it back, so that he could depart directly from Southport. We detoured through Wilmington and had a look around. The USS North Carolina Museum was closed by the time we got there, but we learned what we could from Wikipedia in the parking lot with some stray cats. On the recommendation of our taxi driver, which was backed up by over a thousand good reviews on the interwebs, we decided to go to a place called Casey’s for dinner.

This turned out to be a pretty memorable experience. This place was hands down, no question, by far, the most disgusting restaurant either of us had ever been to. It was filthy. The tables were dirty. The plates were almost all chipped and worn. The carpets were no less than five different colors, and looked as thought they had never been cleaned. No two chairs in the place matched. The buffet was a train wreck. Old food was just dumped on top of the new food when it came out. The bathrooms were so bad, that I decided I’d rather piss my pants. In keeping with the decor, the waitress was wearing a filthy shirt, and was telling another waitress that she was ‘gon’ smack you upside tha heeead with this here bucket, if’n y’all thank I’mma put up with ‘at.’

We definitely should have left, but we didn’t. For some reason, I felt it was important that we prove to the others around us, and there were a lot of people there, that we didn’t feel that we were too good for the place, even though we definitely felt that we were. I decided that since there was less than zero chance that I’d ever, ever, EVER come back here, I might as well go all out and live the experience as thoroughly as I could.

The food was actually pretty good, but we both spent the next twelve hours updating our Wills, wondering which one of us was going to get the corona virus first. Somehow though, we both managed to survive.

Dad headed out this morning, to continue his voyage in the wrong direction. I decided to stop ignoring my poop tank issues, and did some more digging with the help of one of the techs from Zimmerman Marine. We spent several hours chasing smells, checking connections, tightening hose clamps, flushing toilets, and scratching our heads. Eventually we just put a hose to the holding tanks directly, and finally found our leak. Unfortunately, it’s been determined that one of my two holding tanks is deceased. There are no less than five holes in it along the upper outboard seam, which is almost completely inaccessible.

These tanks were clearly installed with no provisions for them to ever come out. Removing them would involve tearing up the sole in the forward cabin, and would be a massive, time consuming, and likely excessively expensive project. I’ve got some thinking and research to do on that subject. In the mean time, I’ve got one toilet and tank that aren’t leaking, which is better than nothing.

We also figured out how to access my fuel tanks, and recalibrate my tank tender system. I was pleasantly surprised to find I still have loads of fuel aboard. Another win was scored, when we discovered that my LPG LNG monitor/controller system isn’t working at all. This is good news because it meant that I could just disconnect the damned thing, and finally rid myself of the near constant nuisance alarms that have plagued me for months.

On a more romantic note, tonight is a really beautiful night. The wind has died down quite a bit, but there’s still enough to carry in the sound of the ocean waves breaking on the beach a few miles away. The temperature is comfortable, the ridiculously bright Oak Island Light is swinging it’s beam around, and I can hear what sound like wolves howling and yapping across the way.

This cruising stuff is pretty nice.

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