We Are Getting Close to Home

Today, Sunday, as of 09:00 marks the one week point of our voyage since leaving Antigua.  In some ways it feels like less time than that and in other ways, a lot more.   We are getting closer but are still a long way from home, about even with Cape Hatteras and a bit more than 300nm from Montauk, Long Island, where we will turn into Long Island Sound.

Perhaps, more significant is that it is Mother’s Day, and here I am, hundreds of miles from land and days from home, neglecting my own mother and the mother of my children.  Good thing that I married a girl that is understanding, and usually more than is warranted.  I’m not certain if I’d be quite as reasonable if the tables were turned.

The good news is that Brenda has been at a retreat for the weekend so I expect that she’s actually happier than if she had to stick around home with me.   After a winter afloat, I am pretty confident that a weaving conference trumps.

I’m lucky to have someone as understanding as Brenda.  And it gets even better as she’s going to go see my mother, who I am also neglecting on Mother’s day, and she will be bringing a bottle of wine to share with my mom.  Two mothers on Mother’s Day, drinking wine…

Anyway, back to reality.  Not a lot has happened over the last 24 hours, but you probably don’t know that as Brenda has probably not been able to put up my Saturday post while she’s away.  If that’s the case, I expect that this post will show up a few minutes after yesterday’s when Brenda returns home this evening.   (temporary ed’s note:  Uh, no, it didn’t work out like that!  I got Sat’s post up, but couldn’t do Sunday’s post until Monday morning!  Sorry,Bob.  It was a long day Sunday, packing up, having a nice visit with your mom, and arriving home Sunday evening, completely zonked!)

That huge high pressure zone that has sucked up all the wind continues to be a problem although after motoring much of yesterday with wind in the 2-5kt range, the wind has finally filled in a bit to about 10-15kts but still from behind us.   That means that while we are getting a bit of lift from the wind, the engine has been on for nearly 40 hours, non-stop.

That’s not a terrible problem as we have quite a bit of fuel on board.  However, the first tank “ran dry” with just 50 hours on it, which doesn’t make sense given history.   We should have gotten at least 65 hours so expect that a piece of crud in the tank might have gotten stuck in the pickup tube.  I have had that happen in the past and after switching tanks the piece generally drops out of the tube.  I don’t need to worry about the residual fuel in that tank right now so I am not inclined to switch back to test the hypothesis.  One way or the other, we have plenty of fuel in reserve, now on our second tank with a third yet to go.  I also have 25 gallons in jugs as a backup.  We’re in good shape in the fuel department.
A bigger issue may end up being the propeller shaft bearing that I mentioned a few days ago.  It had shown meaningful signs of wear after the problem with propeller vibration.  I am not sure if the wear was caused when the prop shaft vibrated due to something being tangled on the prop or if it was there before and I had just not noticed it.  After a few days of monitoring a lot of dust has collected under the fitting, suggesting that something is still wearing.  I am not familiar with the coupling and exactly how it works but expect that it has some sort of carbon sleeve that wears to keep the shaft in alignment.

Fortunately, I also have a laser thermometer so I have been using it to periodically monitor the temperature of the bearing in various sections.  After rising in temperature early on, the bearing temperatures seem to have stabilized.  I’ll keep monitoring it every hour or so with the hope that it doesn’t get hotter.  So far, it seems to be stable.  The fact that one side of the bearing is a little bit hotter than the other, suggests that it’s still not well aligned.    However, I think that the interior carbon sleeve, as it wears down from friction, will help keep things in reasonable alignment.   If the bearing fails, given the fluky wind, it could be a problem.

It had better not fail as there’s still likely to be plenty of motoring between here and home.  Fortunately, I have a good selection of tools on board so I can still tinker with the bearing.   I wish that I had not let my towing insurance lapse.   Oh well, it’s a bit late to change that.

And speaking of wind, I also just downloaded the most recent GRIB files, weather maps, and they suggest that we might get a good 24 hours of sailing in beginning later today.  That’s good as we only have about two days until we get to Montauk and enter Long Island Sound and that would give us an opportunity to rest the engine and bearing.

Another question that will need answering is how we will have to deal with Customs as we re-enter US waters.   Prior to leaving Antigua, I contacted two offices, Bayone NJ, that covers Northern New Jersey, New York and Long Island Sound, and an office in the New Haven, New London area.
I asked an officer in each office what I should expect and what the current clearance process would be.  The officer in Bayone, an office that I have cleared through in the past, said that as long as each of our passports check out, we would likely receive clearance over the phone.   The officer in the New Haven office took a much tougher position saying “you can count on us visiting you at the dock”.   Yep, I’ll try calling Bayone and see how that goes.  Wish me luck as I’d prefer not to have to make a totally separate stop after so many days at sea.

So, when will we arrive home?  Well, that depends on a lot of variables, wind, current, mechanical issues and of course, Customs.  If we are able to clear over the phone, and everything works out, or continues to work, we might be back “at the dock” by late Tuesday night.

After a week at sea, the last 300 miles seems like we are nearly home, but there’s still a lot of sea between us and the dock.

So far, so good.  Wish us continued luck.

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