47. What a Deale!

My stay in Deale was an eventful and enjoyable one. I’d never been before, which was one of the reasons I’d decided to stop there. It’s also far enough south that I wasn’t worried about a prolonged deep freeze. Another big reason was the local branch of Zimmerman Marine. I’d worked with them at other locations before, and had been happy with the results. Their handymen can do just about anything you might want to have done to a boat. I’d been tripping over a bunch of boxes of new equipment since I left the Hudson River, and I was ready to have my new treasures and gadgets installed, and out from under foot.

I’d booked myself in with Zimmerman before I’d arrived, and arranged for them to come down the following week, giving me a few days to relax. I didn’t stray from the marina that weekend, partly because I felt like being a homebody, but mostly because a big fat hairy wind came barreling through.

The southerly blow huffed and puffed for a day and a half. My dock was at the south end of the marina, and pretty exposed to weather from that particular direction. There’s a breakwater across the mouth of the harbor which kept the worst waves out, but there was still enough fetch inside the wall for a rowdy little chop to kick up. There was much bumping and bobbing and squeaking and rattling and splashing.

Since my dock didn’t float along with the changing tides, my lines and rubber baby buggy bumpers needed frequent adjustment. At one point, I needed to move my fenders down, but couldn’t. The wind and seas had Sylphide squished into the dock with enough force that I just couldn’t push her away far enough to stuff the bumpers back in. A couple of friendly neighbors volunteered to throw their weight into it, and after a few tries and much grunting, we were able to cram the bastards in. The effort was largely wasted though, since the poor little sausages were immediately squeezed flat. Thankfully the pilings had some spongy fendering of their own, so even though I was beating against the dock, it didn’t seem to be hurting anything.

There may not be much of a tidal range in Deale, but the wind-driven surge was significant. At it’s highest, the docks were only about half a foot out of the water. It got high enough at one point to cut off power to the docks. When the wind finally started to die off, the water level dropped sharply. During the course of a two hour movie, I realized that Sylphide was no longer bumping and bobbing around, and had taken on a little bit of a list, leaning away from the dock. I poked my head out to find that she was just starting to hang from her mooring lines. The water had dropped about four feet in half as many hours. It was a damn good thing I caught it when I did, and was able to slack the lines before undergoing a surprise rollover test.

After thoroughly assessing the strength of my cleats and mooring lines, the weather finally laid down. By the time the work week arrived, things had returned to normal, and my Zimmerman dudes started making themselves useful.

The first project for this round of improvements was to install my new navigation electronics. For the first year aboard Sylphide, I’d been using the world’s oldest laptop to run Coastal Explorer as my primary chart plotter. The software was excellent, but the hardware really wasn’t. The increasingly intermittent machine sat on a stool on my first mate’s chair, and had to be lashed down to keep it from wildly spinning around and yanking out it’s cords. Yes, I did learn that the hard way. The power cord that snaked in an unruly tangle across the floor was an eyesore, a tripping hazard, and meant that I had to run the inverter. Then there was the GPS antenna puck, which was stuck to the roof with double sided tape, and connected to the computer by a USB cable noodled through a crack in the door. It was a real hillbilly kludge-fest, but it worked, and the price was right. We’d covered a lot of miles that way.

My only other navigation tool was an ancient Garmin GPS 152. It featured a tiny monochrome LCD display that showed some nav markers on an otherwise blank screen. Magellan would have considered it magic and had me burned at the stake, but by today’s standards, it was just a slightly pimped up calculator with a clock.

So my navigation gear was all old and janky, but what I really lacked was a radar. I didn’t even have a half-assed version of that. When the fog rolled in, I might as well have been asleep at the wheel. As long time readers will know, there have been several occasions when I’d have traded my spare kidney for a radar.

So, to right all of my wrongs, I picked up a shiny new Garmin GPSmap 1242xsv. It’s a tidy little all-in-one job that would do everything I needed, plus a bunch of stuff that I didn’t. I also picked up a Garmin AIS800, which would allow me to see other boats and ships around by name, and for them to see me. I rounded out the package with a FogMate whistle timer, so that when I did run in reduced visibility, I’d be hooting my tooter like I was supposed to.

The other big project involved the toilet in my after head. Long time readers may also remember the episode when I found out one of my poop tanks was leaking. The hole was inaccessible for repairs, and the tanks couldn’t come out without major surgery. My short term solution was to clean out the problem tank, and just stop using it. It worked, but I missed having a working head in my bigger and more comfortable master bathroom.

After much research, I opted to go for a Nature’s Head composting toilet. On my way home from work a couple of weeks prior, I’d stopped at the factory in Ohio and picked up one of these fancy buckets. When friend Steve picked me up at the airport, he enjoyed the fact that I’d driven across three states with a weird plastic toilet as a co-pilot and traveling companion. The worst R2-D2 ever, if you will.

A lot of people are turned off by these things, but I’ve never heard anything but rave reviews from those who have actually lived with them. There’s a lot to like. They’re almost completely self contained. There’s no plumbing, no pumps, no holding tanks. There’s virtually nothing to break, and if something does, there’s a zero percent chance that I will end up with another bilge full of sewage to clean up. They don’t consume water, and aside from a tiny little fan for ventilation, they don’t need any electricity either. After some of the pumpout experiences I’ve had, I can’t say I’m sad to see that chore removed from my to-do list.

So, I had one of the Zimmerman wizards remove the old head and its associated pumps and plumbing. He capped off the failed tank, and installed my new loo. I didn’t take any pictures, but this is more or less what it looks like:

Having grownups around doing real work made me feel useless enough to tackle a project or two on my own. I finally got around to replacing the thermostat on my furnace. The old one was tired, and had a tendency to stick in a position that caused me to wake up looking like this:

The guys did a real bang-up job on everything, and after a few days of scuffed knuckles, obnoxious cable runs, and about a dozen instances where they knew some critical piece of information that I didn’t, I was glad I’d hired them. It wasn’t cheap, but it was done right, and the quality of life aboard was increased measurably. It was worth it.

I rounded out my stay at Deale with a few new friends and acquaintances. Everyone I met was friendly and sociable. I had a gam with my neighbor on a nice old wooden Grand Banks 32. I enjoyed several pleasant socially distant chats with a lovely British expat on an Albin 27 a few docks away. I enjoyed some decidedly non covid-safe time getting to know a handsome lad from the marina next door. He was working on restoring an old sailboat, and intended to sail her around the world. I think he’s one of the ones that’ll actually do it. I hope he does, and I hope it makes him happy.

All in all, it was a week well spent, and another successful chapter this weird and wonderful traveling circus.

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