C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Solo at sea, part 2

The day passed blissfully.  As promised the winds slowly backed around to the south and began to increase.  My 15:46 log book entry notes a speed over ground as 6.3 knots, 50.1 miles made good, 1 hour and 57 minutes out from the Masonboro Inlet outer buoy, and 280 pages completed in my novel.   The wind, too close on the bow to permit a headsail was beginning to look more favorable.   Perhaps I will get to run out the genny today?  For now I choose to continue on under the main and the motor.  Otto is steadily holding course.    Back to reading and watching the winds.

The stuttering of the diesel motor resonated through the hull and shattered my bliss.  Never has our 34 horse power Beta Marine engine given us a second’s hesitation.  Now it was convulsing like a neophyte swimmer after inhaling a slug of water.   A quick “why now” flashed across my brain, and then onto problem solving mode.  I snapped the throttle back to idle, and the motor calmed.  Fuel and air, fuel and air all a diesel needs to run fuel and air.  I leaped up on deck and grabbed the 5G can of spare fuel.  Opening the fill cap, I peer into the dark void of the tank.  I’ve never seen it so empty.  No time to wait on the funnel.  I thumb the spout to prevent spilling and aim for the tank opening… direct hit.   The can disgorges its combustible contents.  Once the can is emptied I sit in rapt silence listening to the purring engine.  That is better, but I still wonder why? 

Hull speed is down below 3 knots, but that can wait.  I scan the horizon for hazards.  Finding none, I head below to investigate further.  Accessing the engine compartment consumes a few moments.  In this time the engine continues to purr.  I run down a list of probable issues…
Fuel valves – all open
Fuel filter – bowl has some sediment, but things look good
Fuel line vacuum gauge – high, but in the green
Air – I cup my hand over the intake and feel a healthy suction

What else? 

Well if I did run out of fuel how did this happen?  C’est la Vie does not have a fuel gauge so we meticulously long the run time.  Based on the log book I had 16 hours and 58 minutes of run time when I started this morning.  I’ve run a bit over 10 hours today.  Thus I should have at least 13 more hours of run time, or approximately 7 gallons of fuel.   I’m confident that there was little fuel left in the tank, certainly not 7 gallons.

Fuel leak!?  I return to the engine compartment and literally sniff around.   I peer into the bilge.  I wipe my hands over the tank and fuel lines.  No signs of leaking.

Math error?  I scan through the log book.  No obvious errors.

A new hypothesis leaps into my conscious… someone siphoned fuel from our tank while we were anchored in Beaufort? 

As I ponder this possibility I head back above decks, scan the horizon, and then throttle back up.  As C’est la Vie again hits her stride at 6 knots, I listen intently to the engine’s hum. 

I complete my book, by my assessment Bob Morris’ best work to date.   C’est la Vie carries me into Wrightsville Beach motoring under the main. 

 At 18:26 I silenced the motor.  The Beta Marine had completed the day without another hic-up.  I am confident that we ran low on fuel.  I’m leaning towards theft, but plan to fill the tank tomorrow and continue to monitor for leaks.

By all accounts my first solo, offshore day was a success with a daily run of 69NM in 12 hours.  Now it is time for a swim, dinner, and a new book. 

Solo at sea, part 1

My day started long before dawn.  Wearing a headlamp for light, I worked down my mental checklist:
 turn on the VHF for weather reports and start the water for coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor chain…
pour the water and press the coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
ahh coffee and NOAA weather my morning ritual at sea…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
uncover the main, tiller, and dodger…
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
 rig the jacklines, set the PFD/tether, and prep the auto pilot
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
turn on the instruments, start the engine, hoist the main, start the days log book entry
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode.

Down to 40 feet of rode it is go time.  I have taken to raising the rode in ten foot increments over time because it allows the chain above the water to drip dry before finding its way into the locker and I find that I haul up less mud with this system.  This morning I’m in about 20 feet of water so the final 40 feet will come up in on final push.

As I rest the anchor in chocks on the bow sprit, the eastern sky begins to glow.  Drifting now on a flooding tide in a narrow channel, I hustle to secure the anchor and stow away the bucket, bush, and windlass lever.   I take the helm relieved that the light winds and racing current have only pushed C’est la Vie down the center of the channel.   Sheet the main, shove the throttle forward, and C’est la Vie responds by moving confidently towards Beaufort Inlet with a full moon nearing the horizon off our bow.

Nearing the Beaufort Channel I’m surprised by the volume of outbound traffic.  I’m certainly not alone out here.  The conditions are forecast to be pleasant so I guess many of the local anglers are starting the weekend fishing a day early.  The ocean swell is moderate and the winds are light out of the northwest.  We slip out into the ocean with the sun rising on our stern.  I can see the silhouette of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse rising from the Cape.  Rounding green 11, we depart the channel and set a course for Masonboro Inlet.  Once the irregular seas associated with the inlet subside, I turn the steering over to Otto, our autopilot, and pause, my first moment of reflection of the day. 

Satisfaction mixed with a bit of pride.  Things are going smoothly.  I make breakfast and crack open the next Bob Morris novel, A Deadly Silver Sea, pause for a moment… I hope there is no irony in my choice of novels.  The horizon is clear, the weather is delightful, and Otto is silently working the helm.  All is well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Departure from Beaufort, NC

After a over a week of using The Beaufort Coffee Shop as an office;  reuniting with friends and businesses down east; meeting some new faces; afternoon laps in the creek; and quite time at anchor it is time to depart Beaufort. 

Sounds like a simple, “hoist up the John B sails, see how the main sail sets, call for the captain ashore” –STOP – the reality is… take the dinghy ashore to scrub the growth off the hull; dive under C’est la Vie to scrape barnacles off the prop; untwist the anchor rodes;  fold and store the dinghy on deck; scrub the two anchor rodes inch by inch to remove nearly a month’s worth of growth; and then start up the C’est la Vie’s engine an motor out of town in the waning daylight. 

I started my departure prep just after lunch and set the hook off a Shackleford Banks under a rising full moon.    No laps today… none needed I’m wiped out and plan to rise early tomorrow for my first offshore, solo passage – Beaufort to Wrightsville beach – 65NM in the Atlantic.  I’m too spent from my afternoon’s efforts to expend much nervous energy on tomorrow plus the weather looks fine and C’est la Vie is ready for some sea time.