THE GREAT LOOP
Motor Boat & Yachting|October 2021
Princess V48 owner Maurice Elliott battles steering issues, notorious reefs, dangerous reptiles and the might of the US Navy to visit some of the East Coast’s most historic harbours en route to New York and the Great Lakes
Elliott Maurice

SAVANNAH TO NORFOLK

Commencing a 115nm leg of a 2,500nm cruise with mechanical issues is never a desirable option, particularly across open ocean. Our only hope of reprieve is a respected outfit of marine engineers kindly recommended by Fairline after a call to a friend who works for the brand. An electronics specialist, a plumber and a mechanic are awaiting our arrival in Charleston. But first we have to get there. As the British navy’s former gateway to the Caribbean and the northern end of the Bermuda Triangle, we’d planned to spend three days in Charleston so at least we had time on our side.

Founded in the 1670s, it is steeped in history including, sadly, as a former centre of slavery. However, these days, it is one of the most beautiful and cultured cities in the US as well as the home of several legendary US warships. Our reservation at Patriots’ Point Marina offers the perfect base for our stay.

The leg from Savannah, Georgia, along the South Carolina coast involves a short route out of Ossobo inlet followed by a 100-mile open water stretch without any worrisome shoals, reefs or tides, finishing in the wide, safe confines of Charleston Harbor. With this in mind, an early start and thorough briefing about the importance of monitoring the engine temps and pressures were essential. We’d made a temporary repair to the hole in the starboard engine’s exhaust but not before it had covered my lovely clean engine room in black soot! The risk of further overheating also meant restricting our speed to a lowly 22 knots for the five-hour ocean passage. At least the 2-3ft following sea should make it a relatively peaceful one.

SWEET CAROLINA

We push off at around 7.30am, enjoying a gentle 6nm cruise out into the ocean before turning North towards Cape Hatteras and up the coast of South Carolina. The first three hours go as planned until, out of the blue, the engine management system shrieks out a warning signal. Low fuel pressure on the port engine. I shut down the motor immediately and open the engine hatch to take a look. Having had numerous experience of dirty fuel in the Bahamas, I have an inkling of what it might be. But first I need to rule out the more worrying possibility of a leaking hose or fuel pump.

Large turbo diesels generate a lot of heat, so the engine room is not my favourite place, especially on a hot day in the open ocean. Wrapping my arms in towels to avoid burns, I prostrate myself across the hot engine to get to the fuel pump on the far side of the Volvo D9. Nothing seems awry, the fuel filters look clean and there is no sign of any leaks or failing joints. I conclude that a misreading fuel sensor is the most likely cause. In port it would be a 5-minute replacement using a spare I already have stowed away on board but trying to fix it out here is not a sensible option. We press onwards, albeit slowly at 12.5 knots. With 40 sea miles still to go, our passage time will take a lot longer, especially with the gulf stream current on our nose.

Over the next five hours the wind steadily increases to almost 30 knots kicking up a 4ft swell that tosses us about like a cork. With no autopilot to take the strain (it is malfunctioning too), we take 60-minute watches at the helm steering by hand. After what seems like an age, we finally turn due west into the Charleston Harbor inlet and limp down the 3-mile channel into port. A radio call to Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina secures us a slip on the outer wall with fabulous views of Patriots Point, the USS Yorktown and across the river to old Charleston. But first we have to negotiate a 30mph cross wind blowing us onto the pontoon past a 60ft flybridge with its bow protruding. In these conditions a sickly engine is far from ideal. My only option is a stern-in approach into the wind and lots of power. Thankfully with four skilled crew members onboard, we complete the manoeuvre unscathed and our dignity intact. Once secure, we are treated to one of the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever witnessed as it slowly sinks behind the massive aircraft carrier turned museum, the USS Yorktown.

CULINARY DELIGHTS

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