We left Galveston 5/2; arrived Ft Myers 5/16 ... both offshore & ICW time; 4-5 laydays. The trip has already had all elements ... bad weather offshore, subdued terror, bad fuel in one tank, broken engine thermostat (had spare), beautiful waters, homes, sea turtles, dolphin shows, shark, etc.
Our PocketMail address allows us to send / receive text messages using our cell phones as the "radio." If you send us messages, you won't be using up our units. We type / read the messages on an external unit (looks like a handheld organizer). Very cool and inexpensive compared to other options ($200 for unit and year's service). Just can't send / receive attached files. Our PocketMail address is: email@example.com
When you have your second bad night (of three) at anchor, and you start fondling sharp objects near seacock hoses, it's time to find a marina.
The third night out of Ft Myers, we'd anchored off the Indian River. Winds had been 10-15 kts all day, so it was no surprise when it was the same as we anchored at 3 PM. What was the surprise was they shifted from E to NE. So instead of a 1/4-mi fetch, there was a 2-mi fetch. AND instead of the late afternoon forecast for winds decreasing to 5 mph, as had happened the day before, the gusts just kept building. We blamed it on a passing storm cloud and patiently waited for the 5 mph.
All day I had been savoring the dream of another night at a calm anchorage, generator humming for A/C, hot shower, lamb chops on the BBQ, and finishing a great book. Ahhh.
Gusts hit 20 kts. Fiddlers Green had an occasional CLANG as the anchor chain shifted in the hawse. I tended to matters in the engine room.
Gusts hit 25 kts. FG had an occasional LURCH at the end of a swing as the anchor snubber ran out of "snubbing" power. I updated the logs. Fluid levels normal.
Gusts hit 30 kts. FG was CLANGING and LURCHING as though the wind god wanted to remove our bowsprit. The storm cloud was long gone. The wx channel re-confirmed 5 mph would be here any minute.
The best we saw during our 16 hr 28 min 12 sec stay was "11" kts, and then we couldn't be sure if it was an equipment malfunction ... sort of like digital fatigue.
Curiously, FG did not roll or pitch, but the CLANGING and LURCHING accompanying the yawing at anchor was mentally fatiguing (not physically ... we showered w/o difficulty). It was like being forced to watch a bad guy (wind god) abuse your child.
During a check of the genset, the bulkhead Racor filter was showing severe fouling from our mystery diesel bug. It'd run the night before without problem. Why does this problem come-and-go when conditions are seemingly constant?
So on top of normal travel fatigue, the CLANGING and LURCHING, and a strong personal resentment towards the wind god, there we were at 10:10 PM, in 108 deg F, down in the bilges frolicing in "funny" diesel fuel. Yep ... one of those real s-a-t-i-s-f-y-i-n-g ends to a boating day.
I kept muttering to myself, "Sallye said there'd be days like this." It didn't help.
So yesterday as we approached a recommended anchorage and the wind began to build -- so help me ... this has been our experience ever since buying a trawler! -- we were attentive. And when the almost-always-reliable depth finder became erratic as we idled into that hidden cove, my reaction was automatic: "F*** this. We're getting the H*** out of this s*** hole. Give me a heading to the nearest G****** f****** marina."
And so that's how Momma Smith's little boy came to Melbourne, FL to attend church.
We entered Melbourne Harbor Marina, found our designated T-head, and snuggled in like the seasoned travelers we're becoming.
After a good washdown of both boat and crew, and despite fatigue from the sleepless night before, we strolled into town looking for food.
Our noses quite literally led us to Bella's from where Old World Italian cooking smells wafted. It was a fabulous choice.
We skimmed the menu reminding ourselves we're now on a fixed income. We could have wine back at the boat.
Meanwhile the ambience of an old style family dining exprience was perniciously soaking our senses.
The waitress welcomed us and asked what we'd like to drink. We looked at each other seeking the strength to order ice tea.
Just then the building seemed to LURCH and there was a loud CLANG from the kitchen.
"We want a very large bottle of Chanti, please."
(This is the text of an email sent June 2, 2003, to Mirage President Ken Fickett from Chris and Terry Smith, who live aboard Fiddlers Green, a Great Harbour 37 trawler.)
Ken, sorry we missed each other by phone last week.
Arrived Beaufort, SC June 1, 2003 after high winds (average 25-30 kts) Saturday. Almost thought we were offshore.
In case you're interested, a 3-second beam gust of 46 knots heeled the boat 2-3 degrees. I only know because I bothered to check the inclinometer ... with the windward side of the pilothouse closed up, there wasn't any sensation of such wind that could really have jarred some boats.
I wonder, too, if the heeling effect would have been even less if we hadn't been down a ton of fuel / water from full load.
Request you immediately open sales office in Beaufort ... so we can get some rest! We pulled into fuel dock and had just poured the FIRST ounce of diesel treatment into the FIRST tank before pumping, when a voice from the waterside (!) of the boat said, "Mr. Smith?" The only thing keeping me from believing my time had come was I figured God wouldn't need to ask that question. It was Drew McManus, another GH-37 owner, in his runabout. We'll be getting together with him later this week.
Then we shifted berths to a transient slip, and POOF, "Hi, we're the Jones, and we saw you from the bridge (half mile away!), and we just had to to come see this boat." An hour later we had new friends and transportation around the area ... but after three days away from marinas, the boat still needed washing. This became a challenge as you'll see.
The marina is a popular attraction in this small (wonderful) city. We've had to develop new tactics to deal with the interest our boat generates ... don't make eye contact unless you have the time to give a boat tour; or say "Gee, have you ever seen a boat like this before?" and keep walking. I'm trying to talk Chris -- who'd line them up and do this all day -- into wearing large sunglasses, a big hat, and walking with a cane or some such disguise. We had instant recognition here. "Is this the boat that was in PassageMaker?"
This was our first fuel stop since Ft Myers, FL ... approx 550 nm, 87 engine hours, and 15 genset hours for 230 gallons of diesel. The average burn rate is probably somewhat high due to delays for lockages and bridges, but there's been lots of adventures in the past two weeks with that burned fuel!
We're now 32 days / 2,000 nm from Houston, TX. That includes six days running offshore (2 beautiful days and four come-to-Jesus days) and ten lay days as we visited different cities.
If I'd known retirement could be this much fun, I'd have gotten older sooner!
Terry & Chris
Terry & Christine Smith
M/V "Fiddler's Green"
Great Harbour 37 - #14
Monday, June 9, 2003
We departed from (somewhere) continuing northward on the ICW. As the day progressed we picked up more than our normal 3 - 4 marsh flies. The number grew to 10-20 and never diminished unlike other days. While our pilothouse door screens worked marvelously, it was still disconcerting to have the critters buzzing around the windshield for hours on end. You’d find yourself unconsciously scratching.
We anchored at 5PM in South Santee River, SC. The flies were a bother as Chris barbecued on the boat deck. Otherwise it was a beautiful and calm (hurray!) anchorage.
The depthfinder kept providing erratic readings … from 6 -15 feet while the boat was motionless. We’d dropped anchor in 10 feet of water, I thought, but now I was worried that if we hadn’t, dramatic tide changes might leave us aground. I spent the night in the pilothouse anxiously monitoring things. As I’d catch a catnap, critters were clicking against the pilothouse windows. “I don’t think Chris is going to like this in the morning.”
As it turned out, I should have slept below because the boat / water depth were fine. On the other hand, the morning revealed a severe bug infestation on the outside of the boat.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
As we motored away, Chris began what became hours of hosing beetles off the boat. We used 20% of our tankage on that.
Daylong contrary currents slowed our progress to less than 6 knots; several bridges delayed us. In mid-afternoon we started looking / planning for the next anchorage as the wind piped up.
In the end, we found no acceptable anchorage and made arrangements for a 7:30 PM arrival at Lightkeeper Marina. We entered the marina at dusk, couldn’t find “R55” (a miscommunication), but did tie up in R29. Got cleaned up, found a nearby Italian restaurant, and had a delightful meal. The whole time discussing why we shouldn’t be doing 12-hour / 84-mile days.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Confident we had a better, shorter plan for the day, we left for a 3-4 hour cruise to Bald Head Island, NC. An hour from that marina, we entered opened waters with 20-25 kt winds and a flood tide of 1.5-2 kts.
We tried throughout the morning to reach the marina by radio and cell phone without luck. We knew from some radio chatter the marina was shorthanded that day.
Closing on the narrow, 50-ft (?) entrance channel, we had to crab the boat severely into the wind and current. It became questionable whether this was a smart maneuver in the gusting conditions to try to fit our 43-ft OAL into what was beginning to look like a 150-ft long entrance “tube.” There’d be no turning back once past the entrance pilings.
We went for it … and at the EXACT moment of satisfied relief, the departing island ferry moved across the far end of the Tube completely sealing it! I seem to remember gasping for oxygen.
Fortunately, the ferry skipper saw our dilemma and did a magnificent job in close quarters maneuvering to both open the Tube and make his own recovery. Bless him!
We got into the marina and:
- A. Discovered it was much smaller than the cruising guide photo … must have added additional docks
- B. The wind was still whistling at 20-25 kts; no wind protection
- C. There was only one dock space available, and it was broadside to the wind
- D. No sign of any dock hands despite radio calls and our nervous circling in the small basin
Committing life-and-limb, we re-entered the Tube to make our departure. This hurt because both Chris and I were excited about having a short day underway and enjoying the island’s sights.
It was now 2:30 PM, and we had no plan. Chris started her research while I enthusiastically watched our speed over ground climb to 10.1 kts. Neat. Sure beat 5.4 kts!
At 6:03 PM we arrived at Wrightsville, NC which had an anchorage strongly recommended by Skipper Bob. This time he let us down. The anchorage was chaotic. While I struggled to maneuver the boat into the last available spot in 23-kt winds, medium size sailboats were sailing through the crowded anchorage, as were runabouts and jet skis. Tried as I might, I couldn’t see us spending the night in these conditions in close proximity to an 85-ft Hatteras on one side, a 40-ft trawler astern, and shoal waters on the other side … each not more than 80 yards from our anchor … not much considering our own 40-yard swinging circle. That was even if we could “survive” the 60-90-second time in which it would take to get the anchor to set in 22-ft of water during which we’d be largely out of control due to the need to “stop” the boat despite the windy conditions.
At 6:15 PM we made the decision to leave. This sent us to Purgatory … no plan and we’d have to kill 45 minutes waiting for the nearby bridge to open.
That 45 minutes was miserable. Imagine Kemah Channel-like conditions … narrow waterway completely lined by docked boats on both sides and a maelstrom of small and large boats circling plus the ever-present jet skis. The small boats were milling about waiting to get into restaurant slips. They often idled about haphazardly with the helmsperson half turned to talk with backseat passengers … as they crossed our bow from port to starboard at fifty feet. And that d-m wind!! And we were into our 10th hour; no supper. And we were burning daylight. You get the idea.
We finally made the bridge opening and went on our way. With no chance of anchorages available to us now, Chris called ahead to Village Harbour Marina, Hampstead, NC to make arrangements for our arrival. Yes, there was a space available; no, no one would be able to meet us; yes, it was easy to find the marina (ha!) with a straight-in channel (ha!) at marker #94 (ha!). We had 2-1/2 hours to go.
Now here’s the part you need to understand. For days we’d been cruising in waters ˝-1-mile wide … but only 50-70 yards wide of it were navigable for us. And crab pot floats abounded, usually only lining the channel edges, but several times we observed fields actually sown in the channel. And sometimes the float tethers were short at high tide thus pulling the floats beneath the surface with only a V-streak at the water’s surface to indicate their presence. At night the crab pot floats would be our biggest concern. Then shoaling channels.
We started setting up the pilothouse for nighttime conditions … instrument lighting, overhead red lighting, chart table lighting, and red flashlight for emergency lighting.
Chris has almost no night vision, but she was able to do a great job at the chart table walking me through “… the next marker is …”
Now we approached our last bridge for the night. It was designated as an open-on-request-after 7 PM bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge operator did not agree with that policy. We arrived at 7:38 PM and had to wait for the 8 PM opening. We were actually there for 15 minutes before we even saw a vehicle cross the bridge! Grrrr. And daylight was burning.
Through the bridge we still had two hours to go if the tidal currents cooperated. We had no way of knowing ahead of time. However, we did stay between 7 and 8 kts, so that helped.
Finally true darkness closed in, and all we could do was navigate by the markers. There was no real possibility of seeing floats in a timely manner even if we’d used our spotlight, and it would affect my night vision.
Our chart indicated the marina might be at marker #96, but the harbormaster had been adamant it was really marker #94. We arrived at marker #94. There appeared to be a bulkhead dock. We slowed for a turn, but it just didn’t feel right. Flicked on the spotlight … we’d be docking in someone’s backyard! On to marker #96.
Sure enough at marker #96 there was a large, unlit sign for the marina with an adjacent red channel marker. More spotlight time trying to line up with the straight-in channel. We could see more red reflectors, but we couldn’t make sense of them … they just didn’t line up.
About this time an incredibly bright white light started sweeping the horizon somewhat erratically. My first impression was a tug’s light. This would complete the day’s entertainment … trying to hold position in a current while a long, slow tug and barge passed. However, in a couple minutes we realized it was a numb-numb aboard a pontoon boat 200 yards away who’d received a nuclear flashlight for Christmas. I tried using our spotlight to give him the idea we didn’t need erratic flashes of white light on our pilothouse just then. Unfortunately, the Christmas gift had included a random orbit turret so the problem continued.
Finally I said to Chris, “We’re going for it. Hopefully when we get between the two entrance markers the rest will make sense. The only risk is this cross current when we turn and the narrow entrance. I don’t think there’ll be any chance of turning around to re-think it. Sort of like Bald Head Island all over again … in the dark.”
We crabbed into the current and cleared the entrance markers. The first red marker required a 20-deg course change to port, the next marker 10 deg to starboard … this wasn’t any straight-in shot! We worked our way from marker to marker. Then a strange shore outline began to become apparent. More spotlight time. There were low elevation concrete bulkheads lining the far channel into the marina … and at yet different angles.
Finally inside the marina basin, we quickly found our slip. There was only an 8-kt crosswind (halleluah). We lined up for a slow approach when suddenly the slip just looked too narrow. I hesitated just long enough for the wind to get us, so I backed down. For a moment it looked like a normal “missed approach” was going to turn into a problem as the flukes of the starboard Delta anchor came within inches of hanging up on a piling. Near miss but all was ok. Spun the boat and entered the slip withour further drama.
It was 9:40 PM. We’d been underway for 13 hours but had only covered 80 sm because of currents and bridges. We kissed the dock and got out a bottle of port. Never again we vowed. This was dangerous.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
In the morning, we arose to find out what the area looked like. That was a strange sensation waking up and not knowing. To our delight it was a lovely marina, great facilities, and pretty homes nearby. We stayed the day at the marina to heal frayed nerves.
Learned to use an electric golf cart to get to the other side of the marina. Neat.
Took a great bike ride during which Chris discovered the local golf courses would let in riff-raff. We had a delightful breakfast overlooking a beautiful course. This was more like it!
That evening, “Gusto” (Nordhavn 35) tied up alongside us, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable visit with her owners. They even pulled out their laptop slideshow of the Exumas. Chris is now excited about going to the Bahamas whereas before she’d been ho-hum.
Friday, June 13, 2003
We got underway for Beaufort, NC. Along the way we discovered there’d be no room in the inn … there was a marlin sportfishing tournament going on in the area. At this news the wind piped up to 30 kts to discourage any interest in even the limited anchorages.
Meanwhile, I kept monitoring an oil seal leak from our starboard transmission’s output shaft. I’d discovered it one very dark night offshore, but it had remained minor for the past 250 engine hours. Now it took on a renewed concern for me. Our host the night before, a boating industry retiree and Yanmar knowledgable, had opined that, yes, those seals could fail catastrophically. (Interpretation: You now have a small problem. Defer fixing it, and one day you’ll buy a whole new transmission at a most inconvenient time and cost.)
Chris worked with Barbara at Bluewater (Kemah, TX) to find a reputable Yanmar service facility in our area. There was one at Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, NC. We contacted them and once more heard about the fishing tournament. However, they relented upon hearing our problem and said they’d keep a space for us at the far end of the fuel dock. We thought we’d arrive by 5:30 PM; they’d be there til 7 PM.
The currents went contrary. We just missed bridge openings. At one we arrived with 20 minutes to spend in a confined waterway (fortunately only one other boat) with 20-kt winds. The bridge tender kept urging us to get closer to the bridge. I didn’t want to get jammed up with the other boat(s). Then a US Army Corps of Engineers dredge coming the other way asked to delay the opening for ten minutes until he could get there. More time circling, and then the bridge master gets all three of closed up to the bridge and there’s confusion about who’s going through first (seemed pretty obvious to me it’d be the dredge eventhough we were upstream). During which wind and current were taking the pleasure boats now into shallow waters. I (regrettably) had some curt words with the bridge master:
“Fiddlers Green, don’t go any more east. That’s shallow waters, sir.”
“Well, since you’ve convened this meeting of three vessels simultaneously at a closed bridge, we’ll just do the best we can.” (heavy on the sarcasm)
The dredge operator eased the tension by offering to wait for the upstream boats to clear the bridge. Thanked him.
We fought narrow channel, contrary current, heavy beam winds, misplaced crab pots, and being waked all day. Was the transmission dripping more? At 3 PM we learned we had one more bridge that would have to open for us. Worse it’s last opening would be at 5:00 PM until 7 PM. Quick calculations showed we’d miss the 5 PM opening. More calculations. D**n the transmission … ahead 200 more RPMs!
We looked like we were making fine progress until the currents changed again. Then it was touchand-go if we’d make the opening. A real nail biter given our possibly worsening transmission problem (in my mind) … and, oh, I forgot to mention the new alternator belt on the OTHER engine which appeared to need re-tightening, but could I take the chance to shut down the “good” engine in a narrow channel with cross winds and no anchoring room to fix it if the other engine was suspect?
Imagine our (pleasant) surprise when arriving at the bridge at 4:54 PM to find … it had been replaced by a 65 ft vertical clearance bridge! And the adjacent railroad bridge remained open for our prompt passage! Happiness is …
We got to the marina to find the winds undiminished and RIGHT SMACK ON OUR STARBOARD BEAM at twenty knots as we made our PORTSIDE landing at the fuel dock. It’s not much of a refined technique when you gather every fender you own for the portside because you KNOW when you get close to dockside and cut the power (we don’t have counter-rotating props) that wind is going to grab you and try to smash you into the dock. The only hope (in this case) is to be as close broadside to the dock as possible when that happens to minimize the time the wind affects you.
A teenage dock hand came running to push us off at that critical moment … but his mouth opened soundlessly as the Green Cliff bore down on him. He stepped backwards.
No problem. The fenders did their thing, and we arrived intact … the dock, too.
The following was received June 19th, 2003:
I have a log for June 9 - 13. It's as chock full of lessons learned and antecdotes as one could hope for. I just can't get access to the local library's single PC which will let me send it as an attachment.
So today's adventure needs some context ...
We arrived at Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, NC (not SC) last Friday (6/13/03). We were worried about a leaking oil seal on the output shaft of our STARBOARD transmission. It had been dripping slowly for 250 engine hours, but I had become worried it could now fail completely ... at the worst time and as expensively as possible.
This marina includes an authorized Yanmar repair facility which had also been recommended to us for the work.
An excellent mechanic replaced the seals in the STARBOARD transmission on Monday. We congratulated ourselves on outwitting Murphy by taking "timely" preventive action.
We got underway today, Thursday, after our snail mail finally caught up with us.
An hour and a half after departure, Chris made a routine engine room check. Bottom line ... the PORT tranmission, heretofore a unit that had never leaked a single hydrocarbon molecule in its life, had drained itself through a ruptured oil seal. Murphy won after all.
Tomorrow the PORT transmission will be disassembled to check for gear damage. Fingers crossed!
Oh ... the ten knot winds in which we departed had become 25 knots when we returned to the marina on one engine. No way I was going to try to dock on one engine* with those BEAM winds. TowboatUS has a vessel here, and he strapped us on his hip for the last 500 yards of our return.
* When a twin engine designed boat
is reduced to one engine, it does
NOT handle like a single engine
boat. Power is reduced by 50%.
The power is asymmetric ...
thrust is off the vessel's
centerline requiring counter
rudder again reducing available
power by increasing drag. AND
the dead engine's propellor is
yet more asymmetric drag. You
have just completed a one credit
survey course in marine physics.
Terry & Chris
Received June 20th, 2003:
Friday morning while cleaning the engine room before the mechanic arrived -- sort of like cleaning your house before the cleaning lady arrives -- I found a mysterious bolt in the bilge. Checking around I found its home.
It belonged in the shift arm to the (problem) port transmission. The mechanic had forgotten to re-install it after making shifter adjustments to that transmission. So the transmission had drained itself as we cruised Thursday!
Mechanic arrived 7 AM ... agreed on the diagnosis of Thursday's problem. Skipping the story of checking out the refilled transmission, we left the dock early this morning.
We cruised up the ICW for 8 hours / 50 sm and anchored early at Campbell Creek .. still in NC. Great cruise; no engine problems.
One intersting event. We were hailed on the radio from a vessel astern. It was Bill Parlatore aboard the new GROWLER. Bill is editor of "PassageMaker," THE trawler magazine in the U.S. (world?) which he publishes from Annapolis. He's familiar with the Great Harbour boats, asked to take some underway photos, and we had a nice chit chat about the GHs. Neat.
The whole day was sunny, blue skies, and light & variable winds ... until we aproached our anchorage. Then a dark cloud materialized overhead, rained like hell, and wind went to 20 kts. See the pattern of our cruising existence? I don't make this stuff up. (It did pass quickly, though, and we had a super afternoon / supper to ourselves in a wilderness-like area.)
Terry & Chris
Received June 23rd, 2003
(If this is the first you've heard from us in awhile, it's on oversight onour part. I've had a terrible time ... read no time ... consolidating four [!] computer lists of addresses. Even worse sometimes things bounce back, and we have no chance to update bad addresses or re-transmit because a server was down. Doing our best; better yet to come.)
Attached is early June log (Editor’s Note: See Above) we were unable to send earlier. Laugh at ourmistakes / predicaments, but fellow boaters should learn ... always learn.
Today's update ... arrived at Ocean Marine Marina, Porstmouth, VA. Wasn't sure the starboard transmission would make it. It's leaking rear oil seal had progressed from occasional drips (13 hours after replacement) to flinging oil droplets around the engine room. Was prepared to pack the ^&^$#$ thing with oil & sawdust just to make today's 50-mile trip. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary, but we're very disappointed to say the least in the quality of work performed for us in Beaufort, NC despite good impressions and high recommendations from others.
Arrived here at 3 PM today and filed work request with the Yanmar service people. Need to talk with them tomorrow to find out when they can get to us, etc.
We not only have cable TV at our slip (who's Scott Peterson in CA?) but also a telephone line!! We're living large now.
Terry & Christine Smith
M/V "Fiddler's Green"
Great Harbour 37 - #14
Received July 3rd, 2003 (letter to Ken Ficket, President, Mirage Mfg.):
This cruising stuff is great ... the GH just makes it better.
Arrived Deltaville, VA on June 30th ... two months after leaving Galveston, TX. Owner of Tayana 48 sloop here asked why we were pushing so hard. True, we certainly haven't seen everything along the way, and there have been some exhausting underway days, but overall 40% have been lay days, and we're feeling g-r-e-a-t.
Overall progress has exceeded our expectations for a 7-kt boat. In fact, on our 50-mile voyage up the Chesapeake to here from Portsmouth / Norfolk, it was interesting to observe our progress at 3000 RPM (40HP engines) vs a nearby Nordhavn 46 and a Krogen 42. Each of the three vessels (including ours) was cruising independently. After seven hours, as we turned into the Rhapahanock River, the three of us fit in a 2-mile diameter circle. I imagine either vessel could exceed our top speed, but it was interesting they chose to cruise at the same speed as a GH.
Our ONLY mechanical problem was a recurring rear oil seal leak in the starboard transmission, but I'm hoping the second repair has it fixed. After eight hours it's still good; a few more hours should confirm the fix. And to their credit, the first Yanmar repair facility is going to refund our money.
We're staying in Doziers Regatta Point Marina (Deltaville) for a week. As well as owning three Chesapeake marinas, Jack Dozier is the National Sales Manager for the Waterway Cruising Guide. Interesting. He mentioned they'd had two GHs in here at the same time once ("Berlie Mae" and "Odyessy," I wonder).
When we leave next week, we're going to mosey 120 sm further north to Baltimore. Looking forward to anchorages along the way. Expect to stay at The Anchorage Marina as our base of operations through the end of October (GH Rendezvous!)
Terry & Chris Smith
Received August 28th, 2003
“Bad Timing for the Tax Men”
BACKGROUND / CONTEXT
This week we suffered our fifth air conditioning seawater blockage from plastic trash in Baltimore's harbor. However, this time we were unsuccessful correcting the problem. For 36 hours during a spell of sweltering weather we had no A/C. Very unpleasant. Brings out the Neanderthal in me.
Chris & I spent six hours trying to clear the seacock blockage ... backflushing, coat hanger probing, reversing engines ... without ever fixing the problem. 80% of the time was spent pumping out the bilge from the water that did manage to get by the blockage.
It took a diver to fix the problem yesterday afternoon; $130 but that included bottom cleaning and replacing shaft zincs, too.
I was ready for IMMEDIATE departure thereafter stopping only to get a refund from the marina. I'd even mentally composed my letter to the city's mayor:
No longer will we pay retirement income to visit the only trashy harbor water we've encountered in the United States. Most people have to get on an airplane to visit a Third World city.
The letter was never sent. Chris really was not ready to go.
A 60-ft slip inside the marina will open for us tomorrow. Unfortunately, it will cost $200 more. It should decrease our trash problem by 90%, but it won't cure it.
I happened to notice two guys in a 20' center console sport fisher taking great interest in Fiddler's Green. One gent worked hard at getting a good photo and jotting some notes.
Naturally, I immediately concluded this was a man possessed of great powers of discernability, recognizing a fine seagoing vessel when he saw one.
Moments later I saw a small crest on the sport fisher ... "Maryland Mineral & Water Resources." Hmmmm.
Terry: "Gentlemen, good morning," I called from the dock. "What's up this morning?"
Maryland: "We're looking for out-of- state boats."
Terry (uh oh): "Why the interest in those boats?"
Maryland: "If they're in Maryland waters longer than three months, we assess a use tax on them."
Terry (trying to control five weeks of SSTOS ... Semi-Suppressed Trash Overload Syndrome): "If someone pays that tax, does the State of Maryland reimburse boat owners for dive services, equipment repairs, or replacement caused by the trash in Maryland waters?"
Maryland (awkward silence as three plastic bottles and four plastic bags drifted near the sport fisher): "Uh, sir, I think you're referring to a local Baltimore problem which is not in the state's jurisdiction."
Terry: "Well, we already paid tax in 1999 to the State of Texas. I think once is enough, although I may have been cheated since I didn't get the trash there."
Maryland (glad to have a comeback): "Oh, well, then you wouldn't owe any money to Maryland. You'd just send us a copy of the Texas receipt."
Terry (wondering how many Maryland forms that would take): "That's good to know. Thank you."
God was busy elsewhere this morning or Maryland's outboard motor would have gurgled and swallowed a discarded ketchup packet.