Recap Part 1: Living in Faith

Just out of Annapolis. The adventure begins…

Well, we’re still sitting here in Freeport. To be honest: I kinda like this marina we’re in. It’s quiet, secure, the cruisers are all pretty nice and there are things to do and places to go. No, I didn’t come to the Bahamas to be in a marina, but when the weather is the way it’s been this goofy winter, you kinda gotta take what you get.

Speaking of which: it’s blowing hard out of the north right now, as it’s been doing since a strong cold front rolled through on Sunday. As a result, the sea state is pretty gnarly once you get out of the lee of the island. So that’s one reason I’m sitting tight. Another is that the anchorages on the east side of the Berry Islands are exposed to these winds, so anchoring there overnight could be a little sketchy—and that’s after having to leave here pre-dawn so as to get there before nightfall. Anchoring in a sketchy area in the dark is not something I really wanna do. There might be a nice window tomorrow as a small high-pressure ridge settles over the area, but the challenge is that the ridge is forecast to be very short-lived, meaning I’d have to hot-foot it to a safer spot, likely down near Nassau.

So there’s a lot to juggle. I spend a lot of my time looking at various weather reports and wind forecasts, and a bunch of different cruising resources with information about routes and anchorages in the Bahamas, and then trying to formulate a plan. lt’s fun for my always-formulating brain but the constant “nope, not yet” conclusions are getting to me. Oh well. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.” I was told John Lennon said that and I’m gonna go with the late Beatle…not even gonna look it up to see.

Jay and I just about to depart the marina in Annapolis

Anyway, let’s get caught up with what has transpired in the past few months, shall we?

Further and I departed our Back Creek, Annapolis home on Sunday, Oct. 22, with my buddy Jay Megan on board. We headed south before a strong northwesterly wind and boy howdy did we move! Under a single-reefed mainsail alone, we boogied down the Chesapeake to the mouth of the Patuxent River and the town of Solomons, Maryland.

The following day as we re-entered the bay under power, an engine alarm went off. We shut down the power and proceeded under genoa alone; the wind had shifted a bit to the north but was still cranking so we continued to make good time. Jay took the helm and I went below to see what was up with the engine. Turns out it was the fuel filter alarm that had gone off and sure enough, the primary filter—a unit called a Racor that is between the fuel tank and the engine—was all gunked up. What undoubtedly had happened was that all the rockin’ and rollin’ in the wind and waves on Sunday had shaken up all the old crap that had accumulated in the diesel tank over the long periods of inactivity in Annapolis which then clogged up the fuel line (I know, I know: WHY was Further so inactive in Annapolis…but that’s the subject of much longer navel-gazing post). A pain to deal with but nothing major. I cleaned out the Racor, replaced the filter, cleared out the secondary fuel filter on the engine itself and by the time the wind had eased around lunchtime (as was forecast), the engine was purring along and taking us to Deltaville, Virginia.

Throughout those first couple of days on the bay, though, I’d been stressing about, well, everything: the boat, the engine, the weather, my plans, anchorages, etc. I never used to be this way; in the past, I’d always been one of the more fearless people I knew. Ski that line that’s probably beyond my level? Let’s do it! Move to Montana on a whim? Hell, yeah! Quit your job with nothing else lined up rather than move to Los Angeles? Sure, why not. But for some reason, I have become far more wary than I used to be (likely another navel-gazing post…), and on this trip my neuroses were driving Jay crazy. The thing about Jay, though: he never gets wound up, always stays cool. Whenever I’d start wigging out, Jay would simply look at me and say, “Luke, we all have two choices: you can live in faith or you can live in fear…and no one wants to live in fear.”

So that became the mantra of the trip…and, I hope, will remain a mantra for the rest of my life. Because Jay is right: no one wants to live in fear. I know I don’t.

Solitude in Solomons, MD

Day three was spent motoring on a placid Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. As we neared our destination on Little Creek, military toys of all kinds—airplanes, helicopters, destroyers, hovercraft, jet boats—were more and more prevalent (the Norfolk area is the largest naval base in the world) and were then nicely offset by a welcoming committee of couple of pods of dolphins who sprinted under Further’s keel and back up the bay.

Jay hung out for another day after we secured Further to the dock in Norfolk, and then he flew back north to Maryland. After he departed, I had the diesel tank and fuel thoroughly cleaned. The fuel itself wasn’t in bad shape, which made sense since I’d had it cleaned in Annapolis a year earlier. But the tank itself definitely had a lot of crap in it, and getting that addressed definitely made me feel worlds more at ease about the rest of the trip.

But one other issue was rearing its ugly head more frequently. For some time, shifting Further’s engine into forward was always a bit hit-or-miss: sometimes it was kick in, other times…nothing; sometimes at high RPMs, the engine would just slip out of gear (so when motoring on the trip down the bay we ran around 1,500 RPMs, occasionally up to 1,800). Reverse was never a problem, just forward. I thought it might be the transmission but when I’d had a local company in Annapolis look at the issue in the summer, they were adamant that it was the feathering propeller. I cleaned and greased the prop back then and kept on going. But something was definitely amiss…