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300 Miles to Nowhere

The view from our marina slip with all the winterized boats

So, I should be writing this from the warm clear waters of the Caribbean. But NO! I’m writing from the frigid waters of Rhode Island. As you may recall we spent the summer getting a new gearbox installed. Well, after 15 hours of testing the installation we headed off to Antigua. We had a fairly narrow window to get across the Gulf Stream but then things opened up for us. We sailed out of Newport like stink and were making easy 10-11 knots of speed with 18-20 knots of wind aft of the beam. Early the next morning the wind went light and we motorsailed to get to the Stream. I was off watch in bed when all hell broke loose in the engine room. A loud crashing sound followed by horrible growls woke me up. Nancy, on watch, quickly shut down the engine and we took a look. Our brand new gearbox was in pieces!

Leaving Newport on our way to Antigua
Another pretty New England lighthouse
Still heading east. That’s Nancy under all those blankets!

The shaft coupling had sheared off the head of the transmission due to stress on the alignment. There was no hope of effecting any temporary fix so we decide to return to Newport and hope for a better solution. Nancy, with the aid of Chris the weather guy, plotted a good route and we sailed the 185 miles back to the Bay in 26 hours. We slipped into the marina, with the aid of TowBoat US, just as darkness was falling.

The new transmission. This is where the shaft coupling failed.
This is the back side of the transmission with the aqua drive (a sort of CV joint).

So, here we sit. The temperature is 40 degrees, and the sun is shining. Nancy prepared a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings, I have been battling a cold all week, and we’ve been entertaining new friends with our hardship tales. Oh, and the transmission? After initially denying culpability for the failure, the NEB crew admitted they had forced the shaft coupling together out of alignment and the angularity sheared the gearbox coupling bolts at the drive output. What this means is they have spent the last two weeks taking everything apart and replacing the stressed and failed parts. We made them bring in an outside technician with expertise in this problem to ensure reliability. Early next week we will attempt another sea trial to test their handiwork. Do I trust it to hold together this time? What choice do I have? We will get written warranties this time, in case it fails too far away to return here, I guess.

Sunset over Bristol Harbor
More from the Beach House restaurant.

What does this mean for warm tropical waters this winter? Well, you can kiss them goodbye! The weather windows in December are only 24-36 hours wide, and we’re not that adventurous or determined to attempt it. We are going to sail down to Beaufort, NC for the winter and enjoy the warm hospitality of Steve and Carol at Town Creek Marina, where we spent some time previously. We’ll try to get in some skiing and more traveling around the Mid-Atlantic region before heading back this way in the summer.

Another tranquil Newport evening

All in all the sailing this past six months has been a bust. We’ve drastically depleted the cruising kitty, what with hotels and rental cars, and are in exactly the same place we were in June. We’re disappointed in the way things have turned out this year and are struggling with the motivation to stick to this adventure. But, soon we’ll have a sweet sailing day and drop anchor in a beautiful spot, and all will be forgotten. Perhaps. On the bright side, we’ve met some incredible, friendly folks here in the Bristol area who have welcomed us as friends. You can’t do much better than that, really.

Don’t forget to write, subscribe and come sailing with us when we get out there again. Nancy and Randy.

Taking our walks along the harborside
Hanging out at the Beach House.

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  1. Darlene


    Hang in there you two! Glad to hear your safe and have a new plan. Happy Holidays, wherever you may be and continue to be safe. Best Regards, Darlene & Ron M.

  2. McGuire’s


    Hopefully things will work out for you this time. We are looking forward to having you home for awhile so it can’t be all bad. Keep in touch and let us know when you are sailing to Beaufort. Love and hugs from all of us ❤️💕🤗

  3. irene


    chins up. it’ll soon be spring. changing plans is all part of the great adventure of life

  4. Christy Cowan


    Hi Nancy & Randy. I am friends with Anita Schmied and Gary Medovich (they were my sponsors while I was at USNA).
    Anita mentioned that you would be arriving in Norfolk sometime soon. We’ve lived here (near downtown) for many years. I wanted to reach out, and let you know that we’d love to meet if you’re here long enough, or help you out with a ride to buy groceries, or anything you need to make it to Beaufort! Hope you’re having smooth sailing!

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