Surprise Tow and Arrival in Oriental, NC

As some may remember, right before Hurricane Florence, Banjo experienced some engine problems.  We later realized she has water in her oil, which has various possible causes.  After Hurricane Florence, and subsequently Hurricane Michael which came right on Flo’s heels, we investigated some of the possible causes of our mystery.  Thanks to some friends, and a couple local contractors, we were able to rule out a couple of the possibilities.  Unfortunately, this left Banjo in a pickle.  Since the issue was not due to the possibilities checked, it left us without answers.  More importantly, it left us without a reliable, working engine and the potential of a major overhaul looming. 

For the last month and a half, Banjo has been in our “hide-y hole” at anchor.  Shannon, the girls and I have really enjoyed being away from the dock and surrounded by nature.  However, since the engine was on the fritz, we knew we were going to have to get it addressed.  Sooner rather than later.  We arranged for TowboatUS to bring us to Deaton Yacht Service, a diesel engine specialist in Oriental, NC.  The tow was scheduled for tomorrow, Monday 29 Oct 2018 at 09:00.

Surprise Tow

Today, as Shannon and I were relaxing and enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we heard the sound of an engine and a voice hailing “Hello, Banjo!?”  We stepped above decks to see John Deaton sitting aboard a towboat named “Captain Ralph.”  He said that he was in the neighborhood and wanted to know if we wanted to go ahead with the tow.  “Sure, of course,” we replied.  After a quick trip ashore to give the girls a potty-break, we stowed the last few items we were planning to stow the following morning and commenced getting Banjo ready for travel.  While hoisting the anchor, we noticed the anchor was heavier than usual.  As the chain retracted into the anchor locker and neared the end, we discovered the reason for the extra weight.  Apparently Banjo had become entangled with a small tree weighted down with a battery box.  Scratching our heads, we reasoned that some fisherman had likely created themselves a small fish habitat.  After a few minutes and some intervention by John, the anchor rode was freed.  We secured the anchor and the towboat powered up for the trip down the Neuse.

Out of the channel and those dastardly beeps

On a couple instances moving out through the Duck Creek Channel, we found shallow water of around 6.7-feet.  Our alarms are set for 7.0-feet, so the alarms began to beep.  Sadly, both Sagira and Venus found the beeps upsetting.  For many years, we had the dogs trained on an invisible fence.  They wore collars which would beep if they got too close.  We can only assume the beep of Banjo’s alarms triggered memories which left them unable to decide which way to go to make it stop, like they could at the house. After we calmed them down, everything was fine.  We would make a recommendation if anyone is looking to cruise with dogs, and you have them on beep collars, that you try something else instead.  Many things aboard Banjo beep, and we can often notice a bit of dog panic when it happens.


Once free of the channel, we departed New Bern to the south headed for Oriental, NC.  Along the way, we were fortunate to have been gifted with an incredible yellow-orange sunset against a clear blue sky.  While under tow, we also took advantage of the opportunity to further acquaint Sagira and Venus with moving around the boat while underway.  I took them, one at a time, forward to the bow while Shannon steered Banjo in Captain Ralph’s wake.  At one point, Venus gave me the “are you kidding me, we are on a boat?” look.

Vibrations, and not necessarily the good kind

As our passage progressed, we became aware of a lot of vibration and noise in the aft cabin.  We were able to hear, over the sound of the towboat engine, some cavitation we assumed was caused by bottom growth, which was being dislodged and ablated.  Instead, after poking my fat-little-noggin below the cockpit hatches, I found that the cavitation was being cause, mostly, by the spinning propeller we had left in neutral.  Although slightly noisy, there did not appear to be anything out of the ordinary.  Happily, we even found that the “whomp whomp whomp” we had experienced on a previous trip had disappeared and the propeller shaft and stuffing box appeared to be spinning smooth as silk.  That was great news for us!

Oh, but the view

After the sunset, which appeared much earlier than usual, we were surrounded by only the towboat lights, Banjo’s running lights, and about 1.732 KABILLION visible stars.  Looking skyward, we even noticed, what we thought to be, a few aircraft and satellites passing.  The stars all looked as we remembered them during our trip offshore and seemed to be placed right above our mast.  We attempted to capture them in photos and video, but found the movement of the boat and the low-light led to mostly blurry images.    You will just have to take my word for it, seriously, the view was incredible!   Shannon noticed that our bow navigation light was reflecting off of the anchor creating a red/green arc.  It reminded us of the upcoming holidays.

Finishing the journey

The tow took almost 4 hours and we arrived in Oriental well after dark.  Banjo averaged 6.5-knots the entire way.  The sea-state was calm, and peaceful.  We took turns at the helm keeping Banjo in position behind the towboat and staring at the heavens.  Shannon took the helm and maneuvered Banjo to the dock at Deaton’s as I prepared to cast lines and fend off if needed.  She did an amazing job and was able to stop Banjo almost perfectly into position, and she did so without an engine or a way to stop the boat.  A few of our new neighbors came out to help us tie up  and offered to help us in any way they could.  While we made our logbook entries for the journey, we couldn’t help but notice how strange it was to be tied back to the dock.  After having spent the last 1.5 months aboard at anchor, we could tell how awkward Banjo’s movement was tied to shore.  We had grown quite comfortable with her swinging with the winds and her gentle drift, offering us an ever-changing view.

Tied up and Safe

However, we are safe and ready for bed!! And are hopeful and eager to have the folks at Deatons help figure out what is going on with the engine.  We are so very hopeful the problem will not be horribly expensive as we are nearing the bottom of our cruising kitty already.  It will be fantastic to be back under our own power so we can prepare for our trip south in another month or so.  We wanted to thank John for a safe journey, and for our friends Curry & Mary Anne for helping us find a slip at SailCraft Marina while we sort out the engine and coordinate yard timelines.  It’s so strange being close to so many other boats and people again after being on our own for so long.   Listening to the sounds of civilization and creaking dock-lines fills us with apprehension.  Time for some of Shannon’s left-over enchiladas, and something to sip on till sleep-time.  We will see what tomorrow brings with gratitude and anticipation.

Thanks for reading and we hope you will check out our other posts.  More to come and we hope you have a fantastic night!


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One Thought to “Surprise Tow and Arrival in Oriental, NC”

  1. Cole V Hankins

    Shift into reverse under sail or while being towed

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