November 8, 2017
There is no doubt… winter is here and we need to get going south!
On the morning of the 7th, we had to tie up at a marina slip for Bryan to be able to get all his gear aboard. By mid-morning it had started pouring rain. Though a few challenges had to be overcome, the two new condenser units and evaporator plates for the fridge and freezer had been installed and wired by 6:00pm… a one day job… hallelujah! Our fear that things could hit an unforeseen snag at any moment turned out unfounded.
On one hand, it was a shame to have to gut a functional system. Bryan lamented this on more than one occasion, indicating that his Dad built very similar custom refrigeration systems, and this was as well built as any he’d seen. The fact that it was 25 years old and still worked so well was a testimony to the quality; Bryan said this system would easily cost upwards of $10,000 to build today.
But… it is what it is. In the end, a desire not to be slaves to the generator as well as a step in the direction of self-sufficiency and the ability to get as far off the grid as possible outweighs any loyalty to the status quo.
For now the focus is getting the system converted to 12V power with separate systems for the fridge and freezer – isolated control as well as redundancy should one fail. We may have to address potential insulation issues or even look at replacing the boxes themselves at some point, but those are projects for another time.
With Bryan’s work done, we untied from the dock. As we once again dropped anchor in our spot at Back Creek just after 6:00pm, probably for the last time, the rain pounded down and the cold wind cut through every stitch of clothing I was wearing. Standing at the bow putting out the anchor chain and then setting up the snubber line (a rope line put between the boat and the anchor chain to act as a shock absorber), I couldn’t recall another time in the last ten years that my hands and feet had become so numb from the cold with the exception of visiting Antarctica in 2010!
Thirty minutes later, belowdecks with the hatch closed, heater running full blast, and a new set of multiple layers of warm clothes on, we got word via Kris’ iPhone that a freeze warning was in effect for the night. By early morning, the aluminum hatch frames, which for the past few days had been sweating and dripping endlessly as condensation built up on the inside, actually had frost on them!!!
Our 110ºF aluminum frying pan that we had lived on in Deale had now become a 30ºF aluminum cooler!
The plans are already in place. With the refrigeration sorted, our chains here have been cut. Dena and James, who already have more than a decade’s experience doing what we’re trying to do (and know the East Coast waterways intimately), have graciously invited us to loosely join them as they start making their way south within the next week.
It seems like a perfect situation. In many ways the two sailboats couldn’t be any more different, and while they’ll obviously behave differently at sail or while motoring, this shouldn’t be any problem. The plan is to head in the same general direction and leap frog around each other at times, with a few rendezvous mixed in, always within easy radio or text contact at any time.
Immediate goals: get down the Chesapeake Bay, through the long-awaited Dismal Swamp and into a Latitude closer to the Carolinas where warmth may return!
Short term goals: make our way down the East Coast (exact navigational path still being determined) and out to the Bahamas, which opens the door to the Caribbean at least until spring approaches.
We pay for our late departure in degrees of temperature for probably a week, but gain a massive reduction in all the traffic we would be dealing with had we left at the same time as everyone else.
Now… it’s time to provision and do final maintenance checks, visit the laundromat, get a holding tank pump out, enjoy a last complimentary hot shower at the Watergate Apartments (thanks Dena!), and make a trip to Goodwill for some more warm weather clothes before setting sail for the warmth of the south!