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Cold anxious morning awaiting the purring kitty.

Thurs morning was quite chilly and I was full of anticipation. Today was the day the last part of the puzzle was supposed to arrive and save the day. I got to the marina early and chatted with Charlie the mechanic and borrowed a couple of tools. I went down to the boat to prepare for the arrival of "the stator". About halfway through the removal of the flywheel I received the call that it had arrived. Like a giddy kid on Christmas I hurried up to the office to collect my savior. I patiently removed the old stator and weaved through the maze of wires and reassembled everything. With assembly complete, I stepped back to analyze the situation and reflect on how monumental the next two minutes would be. You have to remember that I have been replacing parts and checking things over and over for the last three weeks and if this stator would indeed solve the problem of a non-working engine. If it didn't work the next step would be to get a new engine which means an insurance claim and an additional delay in departure. Since the replacement starter had yet to arrive I decided to pull-start the engine. I primed the engine, wrapped the rope around the top of the motor and gave it a pull... nothing. This was not what was suppoesd to happen. I pulled the rope again, nothing. Wrapped the rope again, pulled, nothing. I repeated this process five times with the same result. At this point I thought about throwing up or crying. Then I looked over and noticed I hadn't turned on the key! With the key in the appropriate "run" position I wound up the rope, said a prayer to the outboard gods and gave it a pull.... VROOOOOOOM!!!
I almost fell off the boat I was so excited. Of course it needed some carburator adjustment and would only run at high idle. The good news was that even if it stalled it would always fire again on the next pulled. Elated, I walked up to the shop to talk to Charlie to get a couple of tips on how to make it run smoother. He gave me a couple of pointers and I went down to the boat and turned a few screws and it ran better. Still needing a final tweaking, I talked to Charlie and he came down after lunch and turned the same screws a few more turns. Now it purrs like a kitty. The new starter will be here Sat. Then the journey can begin!

Leaving for Florida... "Well, that WAS the plan"

The seawall at the Tiki Thomcat's new home is ready and waiting so I came back to Hilton Head to prep the boat for the journey. The plan was to prep the boat, leave by mid November and meet Tiki Thom in Melbourne, FL where he would fly in to and make the rest of the trip down the ICW and across Okeechobee to Ft. Myers. Then I could take a train back home in time for Thanksgiving.

Well, that WAS the plan.
I spent a week or so, unloading and loading the boat with critical and non-critical supplies and generic junk. The motor fired right upon my return from Florida and we were pretty much on schedule. Thom booked a one-way flight, another friend looked into joining me on the first leg of the trip but due to a scheduling conflict had to back out. A couple of my Buddies, Beau and Steve went with me one afternoon when we took the boat out to an area that exposes a sandbar as the tide goes out and let the boat beach itself so we could get out and clean the bottom. At this point the motor was starting and running rough. I figured it was because it hadn't run in a long time and with the right conditioners in the fuel tank it would work itself out when I get underway which it has done before. One of the problems with outboard engines is that if you ever use gas from a gas station rather than a marina you sometimes have problems with ethenal. I hadn't used any ethenal gas but wondered if this may be the problem that could be worked out with additives.
With this in mind early Monday morning 11/14/2011 I loaded up the boat with a bunch of supplies, stocked the galley and the coolers. I had a friend help me toss off the lines and motored over to the fuel dock to top off the tanks and be on my way. As I neared the fuel dock at the marina my engine sputtered and stalled so I coasted into the attentive hands of the marina employees. I fueled up and went to start the engine and NOTHING! I pulled the boat ahead by hand and went to work diagnosing the problem and finally got the motor running by 2pm. It eventually stalled but I was confident that it would run fine at a higher throttle the next day when I got underway. So, I was all packed and ready. I went up to Captain Woody's for some chow and football before making it an early night and went down to the boat to get some sleep. I awoke at 6am, and not wanting to run the engine for too long and loud at the dock, went up to the Sunrise Cafe for a big cup of coffee to warm me up and wake me up. I got back to the boat and it would not start! At this point I determined the jets in the carb were fouled up so I put the dinghy in the water and set about removing the carburetor and completely rebuilding it and replacing it... NO LUCK! By now I am baffled and walk up to the boatyard to talk to a mechannic since my local guy could not get here to fix it. Nnow the parts waiting game begins. We check every wire and he determines a new power-pack is needed (CDI unit). We get it ordered for overnight delivery but it is too late to get it by Weds morning so it is scheduled to arrive on Thurs. UPS arrives and I put the part on and reconnect everything. The motor kind of starts but it still isn't right so I get Charlie the mechanic back down to the boat only to determine that now we need a new coil. Once again we go up to the office and order the part for overnight deliver for Friday. Friday comes and the part doesn't show, we find out later in the day that it didn't ship from Atlanta and should be here on Monday. The coil arrives on Monday and I put it on and assemble everything... once again, it still isn't working right. blah, blah, blah, mechanic, test, need another part and the Yamaha warehouses don't have it. It seems though that we were able to test if this is the right solution by pull starting the engine and waiting for the part in question to heat up and fail (which it does) so at least I feel we are on the right track. Thom works his magic on eBay and the part should be here Weds... we will see. I would really like to get this trip started. be continued.

July to November 2011

The Tiki Thomcat was successfully delivered from New Bern, NC to Hilton Head Island, SC in July. In the time since then Hurricane Irene passed though the New Bern area and caused extensive damage. Another boat moved into the slip we were parked in up there and received a lot of damage, including a hole in one of it's catamaran hulls. Needless to say we were very lucky. That being said, the same winds broke the Tiki Thomcat mooring it was attached to and it was washed up into the marsh for a short period. When the hulls were rebuilt some time ago, the bottoms of both hulls were covered with multiple layers of kevlar to protect from oyster and other kinds of damage. The folks at Palmetto Bay Watersports were very helpful and towed the boat back to the dock for safekeeping until I could make it back from working on the boat's new home in Florida. The boat's new home needed repair to the seawall and some additional concrete poured. After returning to Hilton Head we moved the Tiki out to a temporary location where it was anchored with it's two anchors. The plan was to come back in two weeks and install a more secure mooring but this didn't happen.

Work on the seawall took longer than expected and the anchor lines twisted up on themselves causing the two anchors to pull closer to each other and basically making on ball rather than two separate holding points. I tell this story because strong winds belted the Hilton Head area and caused the boat to slide up in to the marsh and require rescuing again. I hate when I am not nearby to handle these issues. So, then the boat lived on the docks at Palmetto Bay Marina awaiting my arrival to prep the boat for it's trip to Florida.

Homeward bound... I hope.

July 14th, 2011

I awoke to the sound of flies and bugs in the cabin and thought I heard a knock on the boat and a voice saying "sir?", I realized I was dreaming but still answered "What?". I laughed to myself and got up to get going. I of course popped my head out of the cabin and looked around just in case I was dreaming and actually did find the marina the night before.
By 6:30am the anchors were on board and I was underway. Slightly sleepy, I decided to make some coffee. My cook stove wasn't working so I improvised with my plumbing torch and a tin can... I was very pleased with my Macgyver-like actions.

I was making my way through some small cuts with the motor and radio on when I looked over my shoulder and noticed a huge sport fishing boat attempting to pass me without waking me too bad. I immediately moved to the side to let them pass and offered the obligatory joke "Do you have any Grey Poupon?"

I began reflecting on my trip and thinking about how today should be my last day on the water. I was concerned with the level of fuel I had left because I was switched over to my last backup tank that held 3.7 gallons of gas and it was 9:30am and the nearest marina was not very close. I thought about how many chores and responsibilities there are on a boat. And even though I am just moving slowly down a channel at most times there is the constant need for vigilance that can be very tiring both physically and mentally. Much of this reflection may have been brought on because I was passing through an area where the markers were very far apart and it was about as exciting as watching water boil. Also, there was hardly any breeze and the horseflies were driving me nuts.

YIKES! At 10:30am my gps map disappears! The information on the data chip must have been unreadable but it felt like I was going to sail off the end of the earth. At that point the weather was hazy and the markers were still far apart. I quickly broke out the paper charts and went in to old school navigation mode. Checking and double-checking was the job of the day. I had a snack of peanut butter and crackers and got some on the chartbook, I guess I should take better care of them. The day was beginning to drag on and I was observing the fact that I had passed hundreds of houses that all have the same view while I had hundreds of different views of houses that sit still.

I made it to Beaufort, SC with fuel to spare. I fuel up and check the weather radar on my phone...Yikes! Storms are starting to build around me so I wait a bit before leaving the dock. I outrun storm clouds like I am in the scene from the movie "Independence Day" when they fly Air Force One out in front of the explosions. I was now making my way back to familiar waters as I pass the Marine Corps base on Paris Island and get close to Port Royal Sound. I round the bend, look across the sound and see the neighborhood in Hilton Head Plantation called Dolphin Head... I am almost home although I still have an hour of sailing to do.
I drop the sails as I pass the ICW Marker 13 and with my buddy Jimmy Clark's permission, pull up to the North End Charter Fleet dock. The dock is busy and I am greeted by old friends. We decide since it is happy hour, a celebratory cocktail or two is in order.
I am home, the boat is in safer waters for hurricane season, all is good! the Tiki Thomcat will be moved to it's new home in N. Ft. Myers, FL in November after the threat of hurricane season passes.

Cruisin' down the Ditch

July 13th, 2011

Paid my dockage fee, which I must say they were pretty proud of considering the services they provided and the state of the facility. ($1.40/ft, $4.15/gal for gas and No Ice/ Really?).
Out early and make my way down the ditch. The wind was blowing the same nasty direction as yesterday so I decided not to make that mistake again. The disadvantage of dodging bad winds is that you are subject to the heat. It was extremely hot so I put the canopy for some shade.
It was beautiful moving along at high tide being able to look across the marsh grasses. At one point there were higher banks with large tubes protruding from them. I assume they were some kind of flood control but in the back of my mind I wondered if they were some kind of secret military installation. It is amazing how the mind can wander when you spend that much time driving so slow.

I passed through Isle of Palms and it was quite pretty. It is always nice to pass though a populated area, it is a good change of pace from the never-ending marsh views. Passed a lot of boats heading north and even leap-frogged a bit of the channel with a Army Corps of Engineers boat that had a laptop and gps unit on board. They would take some measurements for a short distance, I would pass them, they would speed up to pass me and make some more measurements, etc.

I next came upon a swing bridge and radioed the bridge operator to confirm I had enough clearance to make it below without tearing the masts off my boat. After confirming I proceeded cautiously just in case. It always seems like there is a lot less room between the top of the mast and the bottom of the bridge when viewed from the deck of the boat. It is a phenomenon that I both enjoy and fret.

After doing a search on my gps it appeared that I would be able to make Edisto Marina by 7 or 7:30 pm just before sundown. I called the marina and the guy said there was room for my boat at the fuel dock if I were to come in after they had closed for the night. He also said there were showers and a restaurant on-site. I took note and relaxed a bit knowing I would be able to get a nice cool shower, a good meal and be able to top off my gas tanks that were getting low.
It was still quite hot and I was thankful for the canopy top. As daylight was starting to fade I made my way up the creek and was excited to stop for the day. As I rounded the bend to where the marina was supposed to be I was surprised to see nothing was there but a small boat landing. I was confused and did a few circles to think. I noticed some locals at this small boat landing in the middle of nowhere and drove over to them to find out what the deal was. It turned out that the Marina was another 10 miles away and that my gps was inaccurate. By now the sun was getting quite low in the sky and it was obvious that I wouldn't be able to make it to Edisto Marina before dark and I would have to anchor somewhere. So much for my shower, meal and gas.

I found a nice wide creek and did a few circles to check the depths before going about setting the anchors. After the anchors were set about the same time the sun was setting I reflected on how hot is still was. Did I mention it was hot? Well, it still was. My generator was acting up so there was no way to turn on the air conditioner for a cool nights sleep. I hung up the solar shower bag and hosed down to cool off. I made a light snack and opened some of the wine from the other night to relax. I made my phone calls for the night, relaxed for a bit and then tried to sleep in the cabin. After tossing and turning for a while before grabbing a sheet and a pillow and moving out to the mesh trampoline on the front of the boat. I finally fell asleep and woke up around 1:30am and moved to the cabin to get away from the bugs. I slept well knowing that the next day I would finally arrive home in Hilton Head.

who knew hell could be so fun?

Tuesday July 12, 2011

Woke up to the soothing sounds of factory equipment clanging around, not. It is a nice vie looking up out of the open hatch though.

It's a beautiful morning ride down the river. Ate a bowl of cereal in anticipation of a nice sail offshore. Nice is a two-edged sword when it comes to sailing. When I left the channel and passed the jetties it was blowing a nice 15 mph. That was the nice part, the not nice part was that it wasn't blowing in the direction it was predicted. The ocean was very bumpy with 3 to 5 ft waves at 4 second intervals. The wind turned to be out of the south and made it very difficult to sail upwind in the direction I wanted. The fun part was flying under full sail but the not fun part was sailing 10 miles to go 3 miles in the direction I wanted to go. The option was to motor directly into the wind at 3.5 mph. Enjoyed the fun sailing but had enough of it and found a cut inland on the gps. When I sailed over to the spot where the cut was supposed to be, it wasn't there! Right about this time the smoke from the large wildfires burning inland was blowing offshore and making it difficult to see land. With te winds picking up I am forced to head back offshore and work my way around the point of land up ahead. I move to the front of the boat to reel in "the bitch", my jib sail. With the heavy winds the jib is flogging like crazy. I am taming the front sail when I hit a large swell that raises me about 12 to 15 ft above the water and back down again. VERY thrilling! I get the sails tamed and set about finding some possible track back to the protected waters of the ICW (or the Ditch as it is also called). The gps data seemed to be a little inaccurate so I watched he depth gauge and worked my way down the coastline. I found a possible cut and moved toward it when I saw a brave fisherman taking on the elements for the chance of catching something. I radioed him on the vhf to see if the cut behind him was a viable alternative and he said it wasn't but there was a spot down about 5 miles that would allow me to cut over to the ditch. I watched the gps as I aproached and it showed land where there was water. I turned into the cut and watched the depth gauge. It showed plenty of water so I kept going. At this point the wind was on my back so I pulled out a couple of sails and enjoyed the downwind sail in calm waters relishing in the fact that I didn't have waves breaking over the front of the boat and spraying me with saltwater every 3 seconds.
I make my way up the creeks to a marina called Leland Marina. Arriving a short while before dark I have to cruise up and down the area until I finally ask a local and they point me in the right direction. I get tied up and break out the fresh water hose right away to wash all of the saltwater off of everything. My cel phone had gotten wet and needed to dry out so I borrowed a local's phone to call Thom and let him know that I and his boat were ok. Unfortunately there are no photos from today. I find the shower and get cleaned up before heading back to the boat to cook dinner.
There is an area on the boat where all of the lines for the sails near the mizzonmast (the back mast) lay on the deck that we call the "spaghetti". Since my cookstove wasn't working I cooked some spaghetti on the grill. Needless to say, but I will, I was able to cap off the crappy events of the day by spilling my sauce on the deck over the spaghetti of lines on the deck.

I was fortunate to be able to save some of the spillage and still get a meal out of it. At this point I cracked a bottle of wine to relax, drank some of it, turned on the air conditioner with dock power connected and went to bed... whew.

Flying Fish Monday

Monday July 11, 2011

Up and out by 7:30am and under full sail in the channel, I knew it was gonna be a good day.
It seemed like as soon as I got offshore I was being bombarded by flying fish and it continued off and on all day long. Every once in a while I would have to duck or pick up a fish off the deck and free him back into the wild. I tried trolling for a while and caught some weeds.

I have a unique sound system set up to listen to tunes on the boat. I have a set of computer speakers complete with subwoofer powered by an inverter running off of one of the house batteries. I have Pandora radio running on my Droid X with the sound pumping out of that system. As I got futher offshore about 30 miles I lost internet access and had to switch to the fm radio option. There is something cool about sailing along 30 to 40 miles offshore cranking Jimmy Buffett and while thinking that thought having some dolphin swim by!

I motorsailed along at 7-9+ mph in big swells and sometimes surfing down waves up to 10 mph.

I pulled into the channel at Georgetown at 6:30pm. It was a long run up the river and couldn't find the research vessel I was instructed to dock behind when I contacted the marina by phone so I just anchored in the harbor. All in all I put in 80 miles!!!
To celebrate, I dinghied over to the row of restaurants and went to a place called Buzz's where I enjoyed some seared ahi tuna and some crab stuffed mushrooms. Both were wonderful! Upon getting ready to pay I thought I left my wallet on the boat so I left my backpack with the bartender and dinghied back to the boat only to realize I forgot that I put the wallet in my backpack. So back to the restaurant I went.
Back on the boat I slept to the distant sounds of a factory at the end of the harbor with the hatches open. It was a nice deep sleep after such a long day.