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Coffee Colored Waters

November 13, 2013

by Greg
Manteo, North Carolina

Almost two weeks ago in Little Alligator River, our engine belched black smoke, spewed vapor, and very decisively stopped; this was one unhappy engine.  So we sailed  ( Details here. ).

Now after much work (and after many years of taking engines for granted), it's a real and basic pleasure to hear our engine running smoothly again. We are waiting only for the gale force winds (30 knots with gusts to 40) to subside before we head south again.   
The pin, with quarter for comparison

Gale force winds are always something to be avoided if possible of course, but here in the sounds and rivers of North Carolina, we have to be especially careful.  We draw 6'3", and the waters here really aren't deep enough for us;  high winds compound this problem, and the dark color of the water usually obscures any visual sign of a shoal. 

As I sit here in these winds - combined with 42 degree temperatures they are pretty chilling - I find myself longing for those Bahamian waters (OK, big surprise I know).  Obviously I am looking forward to the 75 degree temperatures there currently, and there is so much else to love about them.  But here where the water can be as dark as coffee, what I keep coming back to is the crystal clarity of Bahamian waters.  The Bahamas aren't known for their depth, but the water is so clear that with a little practice one can "read the water" to tell the depth and consistency. 

The first time we went cruising, Paula and I liked the Bahamas so much we spent 45 days there "just passing through".  One beautiful day we were at anchor at an uninhabited island and I was working on the autopilot in the cockpit.  I dropped a critical part - a stainless steel pin about two inches long.  Naturally, without any
hesitation whatsoever, it took two hops straight towards the cockpit drain, and down it went. Naturally also, it was a critical part for which we had not been able to find a backup.  Strong language ensued.

I climbed into the cockpit locker to investigate.  I was thinking the hose beneath the cockpit drain had a bend in it - hoping it had one really - so that it would have stopped the pin, and I could remove the hose retrieve it. But when I got down there my hope faded.  The tube was perfectly straight and vertical, a straight shot right down into the water.  Great for draining the cockpit quickly, and also great for dropping this pin right through. 

So that was it.  I had already mentally moved on to trying to figure out how we could jury rig the autopilot without the pin.  Then Paula leaned over the side of the boat, looked down, and said, "Is that it right there?".  It was;  there was the pin sparkling on the sandy bottom 13' below. 

I dived in and retrieved it.  Can't do that in the land of coffee-colored waters!

bob said...

Glad to hear you got the engine running.

Lisa said...

It's hard to imagine water that clear and beautiful. Like the Grand Canyon, you' d really have to see it in person. It's exciting that you are on your way there now!

Kelly said...

What a crazy ride! Glad your back up and running, pun intended ;)