Jim the Wizard Mechanic.

The anchorage in Calabash Creek is not a place you want to spend multiple days.  Deep sea fishing charters speed by all day throwing a large wake.  It’s tolerable for an evening, and that’s about it.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the next five days called for heavy rain and thunderstorms.  We stuck it out for one day and then called an audible.

Perhaps more important than waiting out the heavy rain was the fact that we also wanted a better wind direction for our trip up the Cape Fear River.  Our first trip south we learned that high wind against the current on the Cape Fear equals 3.5 knots of speed at wide open throttle in a washing machine. Well, we can learn.

The forecast was for northeast winds at 20 knots.  Which way did we want to go?  Northeast with a favorable current pushing us from behind.  Since that wasn’t a combination we were interested in, we made ourselves at home at the St. James Marina just south of Southport, NC while we waited for the weather to turn.  At $40/night it was absolutely money well spent, especially considering the alternative was to get waked all day by the Calabash charters.

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There was a nice walking trail near the marina which we enjoyed when it wasn’t raining.

Once the weather finally cleared we didn’t waste any time, and by Friday we were anchored in one of our favorite spots across the Neuse River from Oriental.  We had hoped to visit Cape Lookout but we didn’t want to go there on a summer weekend.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate for a stop in the fall.

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There were a ton of boats heading to the inlet at Beaufort, NC on a Saturday.  Glad we weren’t going that way!
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We don’t see a helicopter in a side yard every day.
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A beautiful sunset at the anchorage, where we were entertained every day by multiple dolphins.
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One of the trawlers across the river in Oriental is the “Captain Jeff.”  How appropriate that we would see the “Lady Kimberly” motoring by our anchorage.

On Monday we made a last-minute decision to head to Deaton’s in Oriental.

Over the past nine months or so we’ve found that we need more throttle when starting the engine.  When Big Red was first installed it would fire up with the throttle at idle, but now it had to be at half-throttle or more to start the engine.  We were still a few hundred engine hours away from scheduled maintenance on the injectors, but talking to fellow cruisers it sounded like it was time.  Plus, we were overdue for the 800 hours adjustment on the valve spacing.  A bit of research turned up rave reviews for Deaton’s, a Beta dealer.

We were scheduled to be there during the week of June 22nd but I had called them the week before to cancel.  Covid-19 cases were rapidly increasing in North Carolina, the mechanics didn’t wear masks, and I simply wasn’t comfortable with the situation.  We decided we could take care of it in Maryland.  After twenty years of marriage, Jeff knows when to pick his battles once I dig in, so he didn’t object.

But on Monday when we started the engine to leave the anchorage and move across the Neuse River to the free dock in Oriental, Big Red didn’t start until the throttle was wide open.  Even then he took his time about it.  Hmmm.  Maybe this couldn’t wait until Maryland.

Tail between my legs, I suggested that Jeff call Deaton’s as we lazily sailed across the Neuse.  Fortunately they still had space available, so a few hours later we were tied up to their bulkhead.  While the mechanics weren’t wearing masks, everyone else was and the office was closed to foot traffic so it set my mind at ease a bit.

The next day we met the mechanic, Jim, who will forever be known on the Pegu Club as “Jim the Wizard Mechanic.”  We explained the symptoms and gave him our 100% amateur diagnosis.  He said it was possibly dirty injectors, but he wanted to check a few other things first.  The easiest, most obvious things (the glow plugs and the idle level) were fine.  And then Jim remembered a new Beta install they had done a few months before with the same symptoms showing up just a few days later.  And wouldn’t you know?  It was the identical solution.

The linkage on the stop lever/solenoid was binding when we hit the kill switch to stop the engine, and then the vibration of starting it would free the stop lever again.  The mounting plate has slotted bolt holes so he adjusted the solenoid alignment and voila!  The engine starts again with the throttle at idle!  Once that was taken care of Jim did the 800 hour valve adjustment and Big Red was good as new again.

We had prepared ourselves for a week-long stay at Deaton’s, but it turned out to be less than 48 hours and only three hours of labor.  We were thrilled and would recommend them to anyone.  We also had a great experience with Dutch Wharf in Branford, CT who installed Big Red, but it’s nice to know of another place that isn’t as far away for any future engine needs!

After leaving Deaton we moved over to the free dock as we had originally planned, stocked up on groceries and a few other items, and two days later we continued our trek towards the Chesapeake.

4 thoughts on “Jim the Wizard Mechanic.

  1. We have rode out three storms over the years at St James. Two Tropicals and one Cat 1 that was mighty fierce. On the boat might I add, it was sure fun to me…….even if my lady slept in the floor…..hee hee. She says I can have by myself from now on. Now i want to share a local secret honey hole for anchoring out. Nothing there but a slice of heaven and you likely went right by it before. Its called Rich Inlet, heading North from Wrightsville Beach its actually the northern end of Figure Eight Island, and just a few minutes away. Pristine sandy beaches, usually no one there. Just slip in on the rising tide and pretend you are in the Caribbean! Plenty of room, we go there all the time four or five boats and stay the whole weekend. Only a small skiff could get in/out of the inlet if they are crazy, so it is not really used at all. Check it out next time by!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you’ve had good luck at St. James. It definitely seems like a decent hidey hole in a place that doesn’t have many! Thanks for the tip on Rich Inlet. It looks like a wonderful spot on the chart. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to check it out! Kimberly

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