Winter on Shangri-La

Yeah.  Who’da guessed it.  We’ll sit here in Beaufort NC and prep for our adventure this summer – The Loop.  Love the town.  Love the people in the marina. Love the weather – wait.  Avg winter temperature in coastal NC is 50 degrees.

Winter in Beaufort NC
Ice on Shangri-La

We’re both from the north, Minnesota and Michigan.  50 degree winter days – we’re good.  However, this winter has been beyond brutal.  Our dock masters Jerry and Bobby have lived here all their long lives.  This winter is one for the record books.

So, how do we handle -ugly wind chill and 10 days of 20-30 mph winds?  What do we do when the pipes feeding the dock spigots freeze up tighter than Hudson Bay?  We deal with it.  Shangri-La is blessed with heat pumps that cool in summer and heat in winter.  I still work every day here aboard our home via the internet so there’s no leaving the boat.  We usually only run one of the heat pumps during the day.  If it gets ugly we run two of them.  Our cabin is a comfy 68 degrees.  Outside the wind literally howls.  Not like the winter breezes I’m used to back up  in Michigan.  It howls down the Newport River straight into our marina with the force of a runaway freight train. It will knock you overboard if we’re not careful outside on the icy deck.

The wind is racing through the sailboat rigging nearby.  You’d think this was a Steven King movie we’re living in.  Day after day.  And yet we are warm and snug as a bug.  And how does our home handle it?  Well it depends.  The heat pumps use sea water for their heat transfer.  This means whether on A/C or heating there is a pump in the man cave that runs – pumping sea water throughout the system.  The water temp outside is 36 degrees.  Each heat pump (there are three) has sea water flowing constantly when any one of them is calling for heat.  Late last week we were starboard to a ferocious wind of 30+ mph. Outside temp was in the 20’s.  The discharge where the water returns to the sea, just above the water line was freezing.  The wind chill was so intense the water couldn’t get outside the fittings without freezing.  It started to freeze back inside the engine room.

Bridge Windows Frozen
Frozen Isinglass

We needed heat in the engine room to get things moving.  I fire up the generator and pull all the sound insulation covers off to let the heat from the diesel generator radiate throughout the engine room.  The lines thaw and the heat pumps continue their work, keeping us toasty.  Meanwhile out on the dock. . .

All of the slips are provided with fresh city water via a PVC piping that runs just under the deck of the floating dock.  The pipes burst.  Actually they explode.  The main line down the docks looks like someone took a sledge-hammer to the PVC piping.  Now what?  We have heat but no water?  Not quite.  We carry between 200 and 300 gallons of fresh water on board.  One of Jan’s jobs it to be sure we ALWAYS have water.  She’s already topped off the tanks before the BIG FREEZE and we have fresh water on board.  For many other boaters it’s a struggle.  Many smaller boats carry very little water.  We have 4 other boats with folks living on board.  Carry water, whatever you need to do to replenish the tanks.  We’re fine with plenty on board.

Then it got really cold.  The harbor began to freeze over.  No one could remember ever seeing ice in this area.  At one point the entire bay was frozen.  So surreal.  Sailboats are anchored out nearby, stationary in the ice.  Shangri-La just sat there.  Unable to move left or right, forward or back.  It seemed so odd.  We’re so used to the gentle rocking, drifting on the lines in the slip.  And now we’re iced in.  How weird.  And still the wind howls.

Beaufort Shrimpers
Beaufort Shrimpers Iced in

All along, everyone is doing the same stuff day after day.  Heading up with laundry, visiting with the dock masters in the lounge and the biggest treat – dinner.  Probably 3-4 times a week either the dock masters or one of the resident boaters will supply dinner, the noon meal.  From fried chicken to fresh shrimp – the hits just keep coming.  It’s a community event every week.  Day after day.  With home made deserts and fine southern cooking that rivals the best restaurants.  And, we still go up to the bridge every day when I get off work for a cocktail. 

I realized whom I had married one evening when we were up on the bridge, surrounded by isinglass that was hammering in the wind, the Bimini top bucking like a chained dog at a food truck cook-off.  Jan was chomping on a piece of ice.  I couldn’t believe it.  Negative whatever wind chill and she’s calmly chomping on ice in her drink.  “I’m a Viking, what did you expect?”  she says.  I’m chilled to the bone just watching this. 

Finally, we got a thaw.  The harbor ice cleared out and the contractors have replace the water mains.  We connect Shangri-La back to the dock water and life goes on.  Sort of.  While I’m inside prepping pork chops for the grill, we realize we have no water.  What? I go out to check and find the water was shut off at the dock.  So, I turn it on to watch a geyser erupt from the transom where the water line connects to the boat.  Seems the brass fitting had frozen during the deep freeze.  Cracked and spewing water all over.  Some friendly boater had seen the leak and shut the water off.  Jan will fill the tanks back up with the fresh water hose.  Me?  I’ll run to Ace Hardware this weekend and get parts to replace the spigot.

We’re in a winter for the record books and loving it.  Will we do it again?  No way.  We’re done with cold, but nature has dealt us a surprise and we have no choice – but to Eat Life.