Change of plans, ongoing projects, woes, and micro-greens
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
Location: Gloucester Point, VA
Temps Hi/Low: 47/ 32 F
Weather: Sunny with a light breeze; rain in the afternoon
Hello 2021. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone this year is off to a bit of a disturbing start and, from our perspective, the decision to move our family aboard a boat is looking better by the day. The political divide, vitriol, and power grabbing on both sides of the political spectrum is out of control. Lord only knows what the year ahead holds but, under the present circumstances, our advice is to pray for peace, have courage to stand for what is right, and be prepared. COVID-19 isn't going away anytime soon (predictably) and it continues to factor into our plans, just like everyone else's. We're hopeful when vaccines are available to the general public and folks realize it's not a matter if, but when you contract some strain of COVID, (just like the cold, flu, and other viruses - all of which you have a 99% chance of surviving) the world will regain it's senses, reopen, and move forward.
Change of Plans
As some of you know, our original plan had been to finish up a few big projects on the boat, namely replacing our standing rigging and upgrading our refrigerator, before heading south to Florida for the winter. Unfortunately, a series of delays too boring and tedious to explain here have pushed our earliest possible departure to early February. With the prospect of a cold and unpleasant passage south and a significantly curtailed window of time before needing to head north again to avoid hurricane season, we've decided to adjust our plans. Our new plan is to stick it out and winter here on the Chesapeake. This will allow us to wrap up all of the big projects on our list (for now), along with a dozen smaller ones, so we are ready to start cruising in earnest come early spring. This also alleviates a fair amount of unnecessary stress on all of us.
Of course, it's a bummer to be stuck in the same location for so much longer than we expected. After all, we didn't buy a boat to live in a marina! We've all been looking forward to the cerulean blue clear waters of sunny south Florida and the Caribbean, but we've had a lot of things pop up and we're really at peace with the situation. We will have plenty of time for cruising in the upcoming year. Besides, there are definitely worse places to spend the winter than a beautiful marina in the heart of the historic triangle of Virginia. We have no shortage of things to do and see nearby, plenty of diversions onboard, and the boat stays nice and warm (usually 70-72 F), and our slip is paid up through April.
Our revised plan is to begin exploring the Chesapeake Bay as soon as the weather begins to warm up, probably in mid to late March. We will slowly work our way north toward Maryland, exploring popular spots on the bay like Deltaville, St. Michaels, and Solomon's Island. By late April or early May, we will leave the Chesapeake Bay via the Chesapeake/ Delaware Canal, then turn south east, making our way down the Delaware River. From there, we'll sail north east along the Jersey shore, stopping to explore as we go. We'd like to sail into Lower Bay and into New York City Harbor to wave at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but as everyone knows, NYC has been a total mess since COVID, so we're uncertain if this part of our trip will be feasible. If we sail into NYC, we plan to transit the East River, with it's infamous tidal current sweeping us northward into Long Island Sound. From there, we'll continue our north east journey to Newport, RI and Buzzards Bay, then through Cape Cod Canal. We plan to explore Cape Cod for a bit then continue on to Plymouth, Boston, Portsmouth, and the NH shore. Ultimately, we plan to make for Portland, Maine or someplace where we can provision for a 4-6 week jaunt exploring Maine's beautiful rocky coast for the summer.
I know it sounds like a lot of time on the go, but most of these are short legs that can be accomplished in a matter of a few days. Of course, all of these plans are penciled in. Much will depend on the weather, COVID restrictions, and a million other variables beyond our control. Since I'm still working full-time, we have to take advantage of good weather windows to travel in either small increments on weekends or, if necessary, take time off for longer passages.
We're very close to finishing one of our highest priority projects and the only remaining "big" project on our list: replacing our standing rigging. This is the structural system of wires and hardware that support our mast, keeping it in column under tremendous loads. Koinonia's mast is nearly 64ft tall and carries more than 1,100sqft of sail. Fully provisioned for cruising, the boat weighs approximately 42,000 lbs. So, it's easy to understand the importance of a sound and incredibly strong rig. Each wire is 7/16" diameter (that's nearly the size of my thumb) and is tensioned by large bronze turnbuckles attached to a series of massive stainless steel plates. The good news is, this project only needs to be repeated about every 10-15 years. Going up and down the mast as we swap out our rigging incrementally has been a valuable learning experience...and the view isn't bad either!
The other projects we're wrapping up include replacing the compressor and evaporator plate for our refrigerator. The old unit was undersized, which caused the compressor to run continuously, even in relatively cool weather. This wasn't such a big deal until the unit completely quit, so we've been using a portable unit, loaned by some friends. Our new unit should arrive sometime in the next week; it will be a lot more reliable and energy efficient. So, while this was a bit of an unexpected project, we feel like it's a blessing in disguise.
As I mentioned, we've had a number of things pop up unexpectedly. The most difficult of these were the passing of two of Amber's relatives over the holidays. First, her aunt on her father's side died suddenly from a brain aneurism, then two weeks later, her grandfather on her mother's side, who has been in decline for some time now died at the age of 93. Blessedly, both were followers of Christ and while we are separated by death in this life, we take comfort knowing they are in the presence of the Lord and we will be reunited with them again for eternity.
We've also been working on some relatively minor but aggravating projects:
Internet woes - our mobile hotspot data plan has been super reliable and fast, but it suddenly went dark on us at midnight 1/31/20. We rely on the hotspot data plan to work remotely, so we had to address this urgently. We ultimately had to swapped providers, which was an unexpected and nerve racking headache but a simple fix.
Battery monitor woes - our Victron BMV-712 battery monitor is supposed to be one of the best products on the market, but it's been displaying the incorrect voltage (0.02v) and amperage data for a while, rendering it useless. Fortunately, we have several less sophisticated monitors on board as well. The fix required replacing the PCB board on the shunt. Here comes the fun part: the shunt was totally inaccessible without disconnecting and moving one of our 120lb house batteries. Super annoying...
Teak woes - there is nothing more beautiful than well maintained bright work on a boat (WORK being the operative word). We've been re-varnishing sections of our cap rail that were starting to peel, as all varnished teak eventually does, and re-caulking the joints. This is tedious but gratifying.
Fuel gauge woes - apparently, the new sending unit and/or grounding on our brand new diesel tank install is faulty, which means the fuel gauge erroneously shows full all the time. Not realizing this was going on, we accidently ran our diesel heater out of fuel, which led to about an hour of trouble-shooting and bleeding the fuel line.
Bilge woes - this is more of a nice to have project than a woe, but if I find ANY water in the bilge I take it seriously. The good news is we discovered what we thought might be a rain water leak somewhere in the aft bilge was just a leaky cockpit shower hose. Again, annoying but easy to fix. For good measure, I decided to add a small 1500 series pump to the system, with a shallow pick up, to eliminate nuisance water. Yes, that's how much I dislike water in the bilge.
Even though we've had to deal with some woes, there have also been plenty of good times to keep our crew's morale up. We had a wonderful holiday break, visiting family in GA and spending our first Christmas and New Year on the boat, which we all enjoyed. We've also been doing a lot of cooking, baking, and more recently, growing our own microgreens to supplement our diet. It's also a fun little science experiment for the girls and participating has made them more interested to taste the fruit of their labor. Our tiny onboard garden makes the dishes we cook more interesting and it turns out, they are incredibly easy to grow...fool-proof, even!
All you need to get started are a few shallow trays, some seed starting media (we use coconut coir but anything will do), seeds, water, and light. Broccoli, peas, arugula, mustard, kohlrabi, radishes, etc. are all great choices for healthy, fast growing greens that are ready to harvest within 5-7 days. Also, the light requirements are minimal since you will harvest very early, so they can be grown in your galley or kitchen. A low wattage bulb provides sufficient light but placement near a window or portlight works too. On our boat, we have several large overhead sky lights in our galley, which provide the ideal amount of natural light. So what do you do with microgreens? We've made microgreen salads, but we like to use them on tacos, sandwiches, or as a topping for eggs, fish, ramen, soup, flatbreads...you name it. And they are delicious! If you haven't tried it, you really should.
Well, that pretty well covers the latest updates from our crew. Amber, the girls, and I are looking forward to getting underway in the spring and sharing about our adventures more regularly. We appreciate everyone's continued prayers and for letting us hear from you on occasion. Like most folks are doing right now, we enjoy catching up with family and friends via FaceTime or Zoom and, on occasion, entertaining visitors to our tiny floating home. Hit us up sometime!
Love to all our family, friends, and boat tribe,
Ben Ward S/V Koinonia