07 October 2012

How low can you go?

The exhaust on Caterpillar 3196s is an 8" pipe straight out the back of the boat at water level.  To mate the boat with the engine, there is an expansion joint (a rubber sleeve held in place with hose clamps).  Mine had developed a pencil stream leak.  Messing around a 8" hole in my boat while sitting on the water is not my idea of a good time.  I need professional help... again.

While in Baltimore I mentioned to my neighbour, "Where can I get good help in the area?"  Without skipping a beat,  he and another guy that overheard my question both said the same place.  Anchor Bay East, up Bear Creek.  So, I gave them a call.  They can help me, but not until Tuesday.  No problem, we can always head back to Stoney Creek and try our hand a crabbing.  This time we will get some chicken necks!

We went back to the exact same spot that we had been before and first thing the next morning Macara and I were in the dinghy and heading for town to get some chicken necks.  And with chicken necks came a whole new learning curve.  The buggers kept stealing my bait.  Something still ain't right.  We are using the same bait in the exact same spot and we aren't catching crabs like they were.  Oh well, it's fun as heck!

We crabbed until 3pm.  The plan was to be at Anchor Bay East the night before so that we could be fixed and on our way first thing Tuesday morning.  The problem with making plans...  Our chosen anchorage is behind a draw bridge with a 16' height.  With our outriggers up, we need closer to 30', so we need a bridge opening.  No problem, on weekends the open on the top and bottom of the hour.  During the week they open on request.  There is also a rush hour restriction, but I couldn't remember what it was.  I assumed it was the same as weekends, every half hour.  It took us a while to load the dinghy and pull anchor, so we missed the 3:30pm opening.  No problem, we have time.  We arrive at the bridge and mill around with another sportfish almost identical to ours.  The other boat hails the bridge operator a few times without answer.  That's strange???  Then, all of a sudden, the other boat hesitantly proceeds towards the bridge and slides underneath it.  With only inches to spare!  And he doesn't have outriggers.  What's going on here?  Did he just loose patience?  We hail the bridge one more time.  Still no answer.  So, we make our way closer to the bridge.  The sign reads, No bridge opening between 3:30pm and 6:30pm.  Bridge opens week days on request 7:30am to 5pm.  A little confusing, but we soon realize that we are locked in for the night.  

That just won't do!  That guy just got under the bridge, maybe we can?  We have a pair of 19' VHF antennas, they will have to come down, but the outriggers?  Even when they are in their fully dropped position I had estimated their height at 18'.  We need to get under 16'.  So, I dropped them down, then I let them fall out the side as well.  Then ever so carefully, I backed the boat towards the bridge to size things up.  The one side fits, the other, not quite.  Then Kerri grabs the outriggers lines and pulls down, flexing the outrigger.  That will do it!  I pull forward, flip the boat around and we try it for real.  In gear... coast... in gear... coast... it looks so close.  I flip the hatch open to look on top of the flybridge.  We are going to make it!!!  Sixteen feet, our lowest bridge yet.  It's so much fun, when you win.

Bear Creek.  Maintenance.  This part is never fun.  You never know how much the final bill is going to be.  I am bracing myself of a "boat buck"  B.O.A.T (Break Out Another Thousand).  Not this time!!!  Free dockage if you are there for maintenance.  That is nice.  I had assumed that I was going to need a haul-out.  Not here.  After hearing my story and having a quick look, the next thing I know he is jamming at it with screw drivers!  Loosen the hose clamps, slide the bellow back into place and retighten the clamps.  "There, that out to do ya", he says.  Final bill $67!!!  Then we stayed another night, that was also free.  In return, we ate at their restaurant.  Great deal.

We had planned for my mom and dad to come visit us for a week or so, between hunting seasons of course.  Unfortunately, there was a last minute change of plans.  Lucky for us, we don't really make plans.  Where to now?  We spent a couple nights anchored in Swan Creek near Rock Hall, MD.  The second night was one of those nights that you dream about.  Dead calm.  Hardly a boat in sight.  The sky full of stars and then shortly after going to bed, a full moon beams in through one of our hatches.  This is golden!

Even without mom and dad, we decided to continue on to another port that I had planned to bring them to.  Sorry mom, but you would have liked St. Michaels.  We were warned to make reservations in advance.  We managed to get one of the last remaining slips.  Even at that, we couldn't stay in that same slip for both nights.  It is Thanksgiving Weekend back home in Canada, what I didn't plan for was Columbus Day here in Maryland.  Both Friday and Saturday we nice and hot.  Naturally, when Macara saw there was a pool here, that is where she wanted to go.  Soon after we were joined by a couple more young kids and their mother.  The older boy is almost the exact same age as Macara.  Finally!  It's been almost a month and a half since Macara has had a chance to play with some kids her age.

When I titled this post 'How low can you go?' I knew I was going to talk about escaping under the Stoney Creek bridge.  Unfortunately, I have another low feeling.  After having a couple amazing nights on the hook up in Swan Creek and starting to develop a feeling that this trip is going pretty well.  BANG!!!  WTF WAS THAT!?!?!  I double check the depth sounder, we are still in 100' of water.  We are in the middle of Chesapeake Bay.  There are no crab traps out here.  What happened?  We were cruising along at our usual 23.5 knots.  I quickly bring the boat down off plane and circle back to the point in question.  There it is... about a 20' long, 3" thick branch almost broke in half.  Enough to make you sick.  I never saw a thing.  It still sits mostly submerged.  With the small chop and tea stained water, I never stood a chance.  Not much of a consolation after the damage is already done.  Exactly how much damage has been done?  The steering feels fine.  I tried a bunch of different engine speeds, no vibrations.  We achieve our normal cruise speed.  I would like to think it is not that bad, but until I get a chance to dive on her, I won't know for sure.

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