The other blog

As some of you know, I have a second blog I started in conjunction with a group I run on Facebook.

It’s called “Sailing and Cruising: Preppers”.

Rather than reiterate or copy what I wrote over there, here’s the link to the latest entry today:

https://sailingcruisingpreppers.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/hurricane-irmajose/

I would urge folks to go read it.  Agree or disagree with my opinion, it’s important to me that people learn from history, they learn from mistakes, and they learn skills before they need them.

I wrote a book called “Basic Survival and Communication in the Aftermath”.  The “Aftermath” is that thing that exists when it’s all over.  Disaster, zombie apocolypse, hurricane, asteroid strike.  You name it.  Any sort of thing that befalls some portion or all of the human race, putting them into survival mode.

Maybe people pooh pooh such things as science fiction.  The truth is that disasters DO happen. We know for instance dinosaurs once walked this planet.  Giants who ate one another, and whole trees in one sitting existed.  We have found their bones.  We have found their skulls.  We know they were….

We also believe they were eventually killed off in a rapid extinction, perhaps by as asteroid hitting the planet.  That is, of course, the belief of science today, and while not 100% certain, it definitely has a good following, even from me.

The point though, is that these mega critters had all they could eat, and lived the “good life” as critters go.  And suddenly over a few decades, simply ceased to exist.  Human beings aren’t very large.  We’re not very powerful.  We’re not all that tough as creatures go.  We do have civilization, technology, good (and bad) eating habits.  We live in a world of other humans.  We mostly get along.  We mostly don’t kill each other for lunch (though there are a few times it’s happened).

But we, like the dinosaurs, populate this planet in abundance and dependence on the planet’s resources.  The two recent hurricanes prove that we’re stronger than we look and resilient, yet, dangerously dumb at times.

Many of my prepper friends ask me about my book, mentioned above.  They ask why it’s not in a paper format, because, you know Rick, when the EMP comes Kindles and digital media will be no more!

Here is why.  It kills trees to make a book.  Books wind up in garbage cans or burned as a fire starter when the end comes.  It isn’t the BOOK that is important, it’s the KNOWLEDGE inside said book.

Reading and knowing information is all we as a race have.  Understanding things.  Knowing HOW to do things in both a technological manner and a primitive manner are what keep us alive.

That you can take a computer, get the weather from it and know where the hurricane is, where it’s headed (with in a reasonable guess anyway) and know which way to go to get out of the way is one thing.  Gazing at the sky and seeing after noon clouds building and knowing a thunderstorm is in the making is more important in the hear and now, than the hurricane five days out though.

Knowing how to pick up a few things in the woods, and start a fire that night to keep you warm, in the shelter you made with your own hands – it’s THOSE things you should know.  Sure, you might have a cell phone to call for rescue.  Sure, you MIGHT be able to get a chopper to come pick you up from the mountain with one.  If they battery isn’t dead, if you’re in cell service range, if the phone isn’t wet, and and and…. etc.

The fact is, sometimes, one must stop, drop and roll to put out a fire on their body, or duck and cover from a nuke attack.  Sure, those things are few and far between, but it could happen.

So can hurricanes.  Category V hurricanes.  And denuded Islands happen.  And flooded land in Texas could happen.  Earthquakes in California could happen.  Typhoons in the Pacific can happen.  And knowledge is forever in your head when your book blows away in the rain.

Final thoughts here, do yourselves a favor.  Do not be normal.  Don’t follow the masses.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV, hear on the radio or read on the Internet.  Believe instead, in yourselves.  Believe you can be better than you are, that you can do things no one else can do.  Because, friends, you can.

Read.  Learn.  Understand.  And then Teach.

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Storms

Over the past three or four days we have had some large, wicked storm cells move through the area.  I had just emptied the dinghy of rain water yesterday morning and helped our friend Jay of Knot Working off the dock for his trip south.  (Jay ended up coming back a few hours later due to some rigging issues, a lazy jack that got lazy and a stack pack that, well… wouldn’t stack.)

Mean time, the water was pumped out using a small bilge pump I keep around, attached to a solar panel.  Doesn’t a quick job for me, at 800 gallons per hour, it will empty the dinghy quickly.

The rain hit hard yesterday between 4 and 5 pm and it was… to say the least a HEAVY downpour.

Fortunately, I’ve repaired a lot of the little leaks and have now placed new paint on the deck and topsides of the cabin.  It needed it badly.  There was no wax left, and if you touched the surface the white would rub off onto your hands.  I think the pain helped to bead the water up and roll it off the sides now.

So this morning I wake up to this little image:

No automatic alt text available.

Not nice, but perhaps not bad, yet.

Harvey, the red X on the lower left is already a “remnant” of a hurricane.  Disturbance 2 (Invest 92) is on the center and aiming at Bahamas.  Disturbance 3 is headed towards Bermuda.

Harvey has a chance to restrengthen in the new few hours and regain it’s notoriety as a tropical cyclone once again.

The other two each have a roughly 10% chance of cyclone formation in the next 24 hours.

I watch “Mike’s Weather Page” and NOAA, as well as the various “spaghetti models” tending to rely more heavily on the EURO model.  I also look at the US weather patterns and the fronts and highs/lows coming across along with their timing with the arrival of a storm system.  It’s not an exact science for me – since my training is mesoscale and not things like hurricanes, but I’m learning.

Below is an image of the various models and how they are coming together:

 

And this is a satellite image of the same region over the past few hours.  Obviously, it isn’t quite to the point of rotation, and if it makes landfall before that starts, it will weaken significantly and dump a lot of rain, some straight line winds and make a mess of things in the Bahamas.

So for my friends currently in the Bahamas, keep your eyes and ears open.

 

Cape Fear: Fresh Water issues

Just a really quick update here.

I started the water pump and found the water was flowing from the front of the boat. It had to be coming from hoses going to the front head.

Our front head is… a closet.  While it functions perfectly, it has a brand new Jabsco pump toilet and everything except MOST of the electricity works up there, the important stuff like water, toilet and bilge pump wiring functions.

This means I have removed a LOT of bulky items from the “closet”.  Coats, my wet suit, canes (JoAnne and both have used them for walking in the past, and I keep them around “just in case”, lol.  Three times breaking my right ankle taught me the hard way), there is a big bag of “dirt” used for the composting toilet sitting in there, some tools, and stacks of TP in the bags as well as paper towels, tarp and we store the unused heaters in there as well.

After I removed everything I crawled into the bathroom upside down and looked into the “undersink” area and immediately found the problem.

This is a Chinese built production vessel.  The Chinese are pretty good at building things, stealing designs and making knock offs, and pretty good at plumbing.  This boat is built with copper pipes, fore to aft plumbing the sinks and fresh water.  Fortunately, it doesn’t get exposed to sea water.  The water tanks are plumbed with plastic hoses, plastic connectors and various adapters connecting everything together.  Some of it is haphazardly thrown together appearing as afterthoughts”.

The copper pipes going to the sink are held in place by a pressure fitting, with a rubber washer that presses the pipe into place as you tighten the nut.  The apparent constant pounding on the front of the boat in the waves yesterday forced the pipe from it’s connection, which in turn released the pressure at the front of the boat, telling the pump to engage and it complied by forcing all the fresh water in the main tank out, into the under-sink area, down into the bilge, and the bilge pump simply did it’s job keeping sloshing water out of the bilge and outside the boat where it actually belongs.

The repair was simple.  Remove the washer and nut and the metal washer, inspect everything, clean the connection and put it all back together, retorque the nut into place with the washer (I’d have put in a new one, but this was was not worn and appears to have been recently replaced since just before we bought the boat).  The other side, I re-tightened.  Turned on the pump and viola! Water pressure again. I really need to look at a foot pump though. haha  Took about two hours of work removing things and repairs, and another week putting it all back together (all that stuff has to go somewhere!)

So, other than losing 60 gallons of fresh water through a failed plumbing connection and about 8 pounds of water from our bodies through other means best left undescribed, I’ll say we’re “none the worse for wear”.  JoAnne is a bit dehydrated today which isn’t good for her.  I’m “over” that for now, but am still constantly hungry dispite a half price burger and full priced pint of beer yesterday evening…. I’ll get some more food in me and look at the wiring up front.

We’re going to stay here at least once more week.  Need to wait on our new credit card, I want to do some digging through things we have and see if we can’t eliminate a few things.  Lighten the load so to speak.

We haven’t made a decision to stick with it, but we have been receiving a lot of encouragement from friends who’ve been through (and are actually going through now) similar issues.

I have learned that we’re both more “fair weather sailors” than we are old salts or hardcore-round-the-Horn people.  I have ALWAYS known that the ocean demands respect, and I do. But, when it comes to rotten weather predictions by using the collected data I feel like I should have known better than to go out yesterday.  JoAnne did.  And I went back to bed for two hours, dozed off and awakened thinking I was going to “call it a day” before we went out.

But, I didn’t do that.  I’ve ALWAYS trusted by instincts and the few times I didn’t turned out badly for me.

That kind of mistake, taken in small doses is usually just dumb.  Downright dangerous though, when combined with the Sea, Weather and second guessing oneself.

Unlike the giant ships that disappear at sea, we came home.

No matter what we do from here on out, I’ll not venture down a coast in the wrong conditions again.

 

Fair Winds, Friends!

 

Rick

Cape Fear

In 1962 a movie was made about Cape Fear.  Saw it as a kid.  Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Telly Savalas were in the movie.  It was a thriller type movie.  Criminal, murder, stuff like that.

Yesterday we could have starred in our own thriller movie.  Or horror movie.  Or just a documentary about puking.

We left the docks at 0900 on the way out the Cape Fear inlet.  We were supposed to leave at 0700 and JoAnne listened to the NOAA weather, and said “Not going out in 9 foot seas” and she was right.  Completely, totally right to trust her instincts on departure.  After discussing it with Judy and Stephen for a few minutes, we all agree a couple more hours sleep might be prudent.

We pulled out on time, at 0900, and headed back to the inlet.  Tide was just starting to come back in and we slogged a bit through it in places.  Bentana had little trouble with a newly repowered boat, brand new engine.  We, on the other hand couldn’t make more than about 4 knots maximum most of the time and that was pushing the engine.  I almost turned back and said “Nope”.  But I didn’t.

We got out to the channel and dodged a ship.  He called me and asked if I’d be polite enough to step out side the markers for him, to which I replied that he could have the entire ocean should he desire it.  We moved outside the channel in 40′ of water and his bow bulb was as big as my whole boat.  After he passed, I called him and “thanked him for the slow pass” and I think I made his day, he laughed and said “Good travels”.

No more incidents for a bit.  Then the shoals came into view.  And the water turned into a rocking wash tub.  I almost turned back…. but I didn’t.

We called Bentana who was now gaining ground and moving at a quick pace out to sea.  Judy said that they were going past marker 6 I think it was and then turning to 180 degrees to catch the wind, get out to sea and then would tack back later.  I followed her lead.

We didn’t make it to the mark she turned out at.  We were taking a pounding by then and the wind was wrong, and so were the waves.  Making a decision to stop taking a pounding, I checked depths, and objects in front of me and turned to 180, raised sail and steadied the boat considerably.  I consulted with JoAnne about turning around.  She said “I want to go to Charleston.  We’re already out here.”  She had a point. I could have turned around… but I didn’t.

We sailing relatively well at that point going up and down the waves, and not getting slammed now, things somewhat smoothed out.  But JoAnne kept getting sick.  At some point I had to go below to check on something.  What it was, I don’t even remember now.  That’s when I started getting sick.  First time ever being “seasick”.  When we took a steep wave and most of the ocean washed over the foredeck and back to the cockpit coaming, it was at that point I thought “We should turn back…”.  But I didn’t.

I called Bentana to check in at 1230 as we’d planned.  They were “doing ok” and we all exchanged encouraging words.

By 1300, JoAnne was doing all she could to keep from throwing up, and I wasn’t.  It was my turn.  I got so sick I threw up for five solid minutes.  I think I nearly passed out from it.  I had heart surgery last year in May.  I still have pain in my ribs and back from where they cracked open my chest.  All my ribs crack like knuckles.  I think they all popped yesterday.  It was right about that moment in time I realized just how stupid this was.  I stopped and considered the situation carefully.  We could go on and we didn’t know the sea state would settle for sure, or we could go back, reverse course back through the washing machine, tides, current and winds all from different directions, we could heave too (we were about 8 miles out perhaps by then) and hope things settled.

At that moment, I made the “prudent” decision to turn around.  Finally.  All DAY I had not listened to my inner voice telling me “Today is not the day!”  Please note I called it a “Purdent Decision”.  It truly wasn’t a prudent decision.  It was a mistake to go out when I had thought it wasn’t a good day.  And to be clear I DO know weather conditions pretty well, and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable, but we were tired of being here, ready to go, ready to roll, get going, go somewhere else.  All the way around “prudence” was jumping up and down trying to be noticed and I was ignoring “her”.

I called Bentana and told JoAnne, Judy and Stephen at the same time we were headed back in.  I can’t bear to see JoAnne sick like that, and if something had happened to me she’d have been helpless at that point to do anything about it other than call for evacuation.  That wasn’t going to happen.

We rode the waves back in, partially under sail, trying to keep the winds right and give us some speed.  We made 4-5 knots back in, until the channel, where the waves were crossing us, and hitting the side of the boat.  Not that we had a LOT of choice in which way to go.  Shoals were coming up and waves were big, ships were headed out, and winds were still only 20 knots maybe.  Not enough to bother the boat.  It was the wave action that was sucking bad.

We passed three more, outgoing ships, I gave them wide berth and even used their wash to get into smoother waters for a bit.  That helped.  I had long since stopped being sick.  Nothing left.  JoAnne was settling down too I think by then.  I occupied her with helping watch for markers and ships.  (Hard to miss a ship, though, you really want to miss them….)

We hit the junction of Cape Fear River out going current, the incoming tide, let a giant cargo ship pass, and a tug pulling a barge, and I made it to the ICW cut headed back in with little difficultly.

The engine was still running so that was a good thing.

After we docked with help from Norm from the Marina, who was kind enough to stay on the dock until we arrived, Jay from Knot Working and the folks from the power yacht Chrysalis, I discovered the water pump running down below.  I killed the breaker assuming the worst.  A bit later, I discovered all the water in our main tank was pumped out (probably to sea) and the pump was running for awhile I guess.  I’m surprised it didn’t burn out.

This morning I heard Judy and Stephen got beat up pretty badly as well, Judy was also, apparently ill as well.  They made it as far as Georgetown.  Far short of Charleston.  I believe they said (JoAnne reported) they are on anchor now and resting, well and safe.

I have work to do on the water tank.  I’m going to extend our visit here at least a week.  I have work to do on the ship, repairs to make and I’m going to have a little chat with a few local business establishments around here…. because I came back to a message about my credit card being compromised (AGAIN) and five transactions for 17-28 bucks occurred yesterday in Raleigh, a good distance from here… but there are three suspects who could have used my number (having all three taken my card out of my sight to take a payment, or getting the number some other way).  The rest of the places I used it, the card was never out of my sight and they swiped it into a machine so they couldn’t have easily gained the information from the card).  I’m NOT happy about that happening either and if I discover for a fact who did it, there’s going to be consequences.  I HATE thieves and I won’t hesitate to take whatever action is required to prevent them from stealing again  (legal or otherwise given the right circumstances).

Today, JoAnne gets to relax her back and rest, I’m tearing things apart, making coffee and preparing for the cold weather coming.  We are discussing giving up and quitting, selling the boat, getting an RV, going back to Colorado defeated, going on down the ICW, or choosing better sailing days on the outside.

Stay tuned.  We will let you know what’s next.

Fair Winds!

Rick

ICW: Southport, NC

Wrightsville Beach: We left out of Wrightsville Beach on a bright, sunny morning with temperatures in the 50s and a light breeze blowing.  We were headed for Southport are of North Carolina.  We’d spoken to several marinas because we wanted to be on a dock with wifi access for a couple of days before heading on to Charleston.

The trip out of the anchorage to the ICW was uneventful.  Engine was running well, systems all functional.  We came down the Cape Fear River from Snow’s Cut, making very good time, the current was with us, and the tide was leaving so we were making 5 to 6.5 knots most of the time.  A catamaran named Necessity, a delivery crew en route to Florida.  We had a short conversation VHF and bid one another adieu.

They were moving along at a decent clip and managed to get to Southport long before us, got fuel and were passing us heading for the ocean when we rounded into the channel.  The skipper hollered over saying, “We’re going outside, Fair Winds!”  I waved back and headed into the channel.

The current coming out grabbed the front of the bow and shoved us to starboard, a lot harder than I would have expected.  Our speed dropped from 5.5 knots to 2 suddenly.  I gave the engine some throttle and brought the bow back around.  A weird vibration started that I’d not heard before.  Once I got into the channel I backed down the throttle again and the engine settled.

I tapped the button for the bow thrusters and found them no longer working… again.  Similar issue as I had a few weeks ago.  Just didn’t fire up for some reason.  Still isn’t today and am not sure why.  I suspect the controller though at this point, but it’s possible the works up in the front of the boat has some issue.

Now, I’m sure I can get into the dock though, with no issues, so I call the marina, notify them I’m a couple miles out and have the bridge in sight.  I advise I will need a dock hand to assist with the tie off because I don’t want JoAnne trying to get off the boat in this current.  “No problem, I’ll be there” says the dockmaster.

We come in and I line up and “land” gently next to the dock and hold her steady while JoAnne hands off the two lines he’s asked for and once he has one secured, I jump off and grab the stern line.  After moving the lines where he wants us to sit for our visit, I finish tying it all off.  A/C Power is connected and we’re all good.

Nothing out of the ordinary and no problems.

So I think.

Engine Issues: Of course, the weather was good for two days and we’re staying three nights.  No problem.  Then the weather reports start coming in about rain, thunderstorms and high winds off shore.  We’re supposed to leave on Sunday morning but the weather was going to be crappy, and we don’t want to deal with it going off shore or sitting in a new anchorage for a few days and decide to extend our stay here on the docks.

It rained cats and dogs, and assorted other critters for almost a full 24 hours.  I watched thundershowers roll through on the radar to our south, missing us by about 20 miles… but slamming the anchorage are where we’d have been.  Ok, good call on that I guess.

Today is Wednesday, 7 December 2016 – Pearl Harbor Day – and we were supposed to pull out this morning.  That didn’t happen.

Now, this IS a sail boat, and in general, you like to use the SAILS to move the boat, and the truth is I CAN do that.  But short tacking down the ICW to get back out to the ocean isn’t precisely my idea of “smooth sailing” or fun, especially not sailing it alone.  With JoAnne’s back injury last year, she’s not going to be shifting rapidly to move lines or for that matter, drive much.  If we had an extra crew or two aboard to assist, it would probably be easy enough to do with a bit of practice with a new crew.  But, this is a pretty large boat — a ship really — a heavy, slow, ponderous, if you will, “beast” that does what she wishes sometimes when you don’t wish it, and usually when least expected.

Thus, being a sailboat with an auxiliary engine means… well, we want the engine functional at all times.  When you don’t need it, but especially when you do.

So last evening (late afternoon actually), as is my usual course of action before heading out the next day, I started doing system and engine checks hoping to leave this morning.  Bow thrusters, still not working and not sure why.  Fuse is good… but I can do without bow thrusters and really need the engine working.  I check the engine oil, coolant levels, belts, look for anything out of the ordinary like leaks and strange things that weren’t there before.  Added a bit of oil (as we have a constant drip under the engine which appears to be a gasket that the mechanic said was notorious for leaking anyway) and looked at coolant.  I checked the alternator belt and something caught my eye.

A tiny crack.  There is a a bracket that is mounted to the starboard side of the engine, through which a bolt holding the alternator runs, and there are two places it runs.  This piece was “half ass” welded to the bigger piece.  After examining it carefully, this appears to have been a makeshift repair at some point in the past, and not an actual factory job.  Anyway, this piece broke.  So, the alternator is holding on by one side and not the other.  The crack is fresh.  The steel shattered.

I let the marina know who got me in touch with Snyder Marine, down the street.  Jason, the technician was here in 15 minutes or so.  He looked over the engine and said something about the oil leak and then removed the bracket.  We looked closely and sure enough, the bracket had a flaw in it, and quite possibly was already “rebuilt” once or re-welded.  There had been an old crack at the weld, and there was rust there.  The rest of the crack extended from the old, weakened spot and the vibration I’d heard coming in at the entrance to the channel was quite likely the alternator breaking right at the point I put extra pressure on the engine.  We started the engine.

Jason, then found another problem.  Our exhaust manifold is leaking, a gasket has failed there as well.  So, he’s working on getting us the right parts and will, with luck have us under way sometime in the next day or so.  The oil leak is coming from the air intake area, and a second one elsewhere.  I’ll get the details later when he returns.

The Tech is trying to get a new part for us, and had to come in this morning to locate the serial number.  I never found it, but he finally did.  Back of the engine, in a difficult location to see.  Figures.  Wrote it down though in the log book!

We have had some pretty sun sets here, and have seen some beautiful boats.  Here are a few of those images.

Majestic Dream on the dock

Majestic Dream

Down the docks from us is a Vagabond 47, pictured above.  Skip and Louise are the owners, and like us, are headed south.  They are due to pull out today at noon and head off shore for Charleston, SC.  They are supposed to drop us a note saying they arrived safely.  A boat just like this one was in Norfolk with us last year.  Apparently, I’ve either deleted the pictures or put them “someplace safe” and forgotten where I put them.

Sunset at the South Harbour Village Marina across the ICW

Different Sunset, Different Day, ICW North Carolina

Amateur Radio: Side note on Ham Radio.  Got in contact with my old friend Rick Hendricks, KE0GB from Colorado Springs and we’ve been chatting a bit about trying to make radio contact, which so far hasn’t happened.  The bands haven’t really been opened to Colorado Springs lately.  We’ve tried packet, and psk31 digital modes but nothing yet.  Have to get the right conditions.

I’ve also tried getting Winlink2000 (RMSExpress) working under Linux, and though it “sort of works” it doesn’t work well, or properly.  I just don’t have the time to fiddle with Linux and figure out why things aren’t working right, but I’m sure it’s because it’s a windows program running under WINE.  I’d be better off drinking wine and washing our windows I suppose rather than wrack my brain on operating systems. /shrug

Departure: We’re planning our departure here as soon as the engine is repaired again and we’re talking about making the trip to Little River and anchor.  It’s a short day trip, 35 miles perhaps with the in/out of the channels and then go on the next day for Charleston.  At this point, I’m strongly considering, with a good window, to make for Florida and spend the 2-3 days sailing day and night.

JoAnne doesn’t seem to be ready to spend time standing a watch though, but if she can stand a 2-4 hour watch, just making sure we’re not getting run down and mostly on course, not over running shoals or getting whale-whacked mostly in the day time, I can handle an all-night watch and nap through it for a few days.  I’ve done this sort of thing in the military where I got very little sleep for days on end.  But, I’m getting older now.

One more temporary crew member to assist me with watches would be best.  But, we can do this. We’ll debate it more as we go.

Until later…

Fair Winds!

Edit:  Just received a call from Jason about the part.  Apparently this particular piece is obsolete.  They are going to have to make one for me.  Oh… goodie.  I will wait and see I guess how it looks.

Edit, Bow Thrusters: Having a beautiful, sunny afternoon here on the dock, I did some rearranging in the fore cabin, added beer and soda to the fridge making a little room.  I removed some boxes that were no longer holding things and I tore apart the navigation pod (which was no mean feat, not having the proper tools – they have special security screws, but fortunately I happened to have a couple of those special bits and found the right one.  I’ll be replacing the screws with something I can put in and out easier next time!)

In any case, the controller is what I thought was “acting up” – or more accurately, not acting at all.  I was still getting power at the device because if you press the power button, a tiny beep-beep-beep sound would happen, with the beeps being about 8 seconds apart.  That’s not normal.  Normal operation when you press the button is a fast beeping sound, and you have about 10 seconds to press the button a second time.  The device then sends a Morse code lettter (R) for “received” I guess.   When you turn it off it usually sends “SK” – with is di di dit da di dah – again Morse code for “End of transmission”.

Anyway, inside is a circuit board with a handful of parts, all surface mount chip technology, a couple of transistors and a microprocessor.  I cleaned the circuit board with alcohol because there was a bit of some kind of mold or something.  I assume it might be conductive.  Also cleaned the connectors, a large, four-pin, specially keyed connector so you can’t plug it back in incorrectly.

That fixed the issue.  The controller fires right up now, and the bow thrusters are fully functional again! Yay!

Coinjock to Belhaven

Here are some notes I wrote the other day to put into the blog.  I’m just too lazy today to rewrite everything into a different set of notes.  But, it gives you an idea of my thinking a couple of days ago versus today.

Traveling

We departed early yesterday (Election Day, 8 November 2016) morning from Coinjock, at Midway Marina.

We dropped anchor at Tuckahoe Point, directly in front of the Alligator River-Pungo Canal entrance about 1525. JoAnne wrote “Anchor Down” at that time. We found 7-9 feet of water moving out of the channel to that particular spot. We spent the night on a quite anchor, occasionally hearing engines coming through the canal (I believe for the most part they were barges being push by tugs.

This morning (9 November 2016) we up anchored at about 0700. We went back down to the spot I’d entered the anchorage and we turned into the channel right after a barge went through past us in the channel.

Through out the trip we saw birds and occasional fish jumping. Did not run aground (that’s a good thing!) and managed to remain mostly in the center of the channel.

We were passed by mostly power boats, the majority of whom did not call us and ask, just usually blew past us leaving a large wake shaking us up pretty hard and usually before I get get the bow into the wake. A few called us. Every sailboat that passed (three I think) called us and requested permission, and asked which side to pass. A couple of power boats did the same thing, but generally the power vessels ignored us like we weren’t there.

One guy, who passed me as we entered into the very large area just out of the canal had been calling sailboat behind us all day, requesting permission to pass, and was polite all the way through. His boat name was “Trixie”. When he passed us, we had a very wide area and he didn’t need to call me, but I called him and told him to pass, and I’d slow for him. He thanked me and went on around with no wake. He was the largest boat we’d seen in the canal moving.

At Coinjock Marina the morning we pulled out, there was a very HUGE cruise ship sitting there I think called Independence. It was taking up 50% of the docks and honestly, I have no idea how they got in there or where they came from!

I have been checking the engine carefully either the night of the stop or morning before we pull out, and adding a tint bit of oil to keep it at the right level, and checking the belt, the bolt on the alternator, coolant levels and the fuel.

Tonight, we’re at about a 1/2 tank of fuel on one tank. Full on the other. We have good coolant. I’ll probably have to add a tad bit of oil in the morning.

I put up the enclosure tonight, cleaned the deck (mud from anchor), added gas to the generator and fired it up a bit ago so I can run the shortwave, and do this blog. We have no internet or phone service at all here, therefore I’m writing this “ahead” of being posted. I’ll post it as soon as I have service again.

Tomorrow, we will be doing a very short day and stopping in a small creek or river across the Neuse River (away from the “magenta line” and away from the crowd for the most part. A lot of people are heading south and the marinas and anchorages are getting filled quickly (the standard and well known anchorages). We’ve been looking for things slightly off the beaten path because then we don’t deal with dragging anchors and loud noises haha.

Tomorrow, we’re looking at two places. Either a very short run of about 25 statute miles or a 40-something run. I did not find a good anchorage at shorter distances.

I’ll write more later.

Now, is later…. so.

With plans to be out of here this morning I woke up early, and made coffee, JoAnne was putting things away and I went outside to take the trash and visit the head.  And then got to thinking.

Tonight it is supposed to rain.  And tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain all day where we will be on anchor.  And it’s pretty chilly and JoAnne is getting cold and can’t stay warm.  So, debating about getting 25 miles south of here to an anchorage where we sit all night and all day tomorrow in the rain with no internet connection, versus sitting on the dock an extra two days with electricity, wifi, access to showers, head, town (and I need to replace a propane tank) caused a quick discussion, and a go-over of the weather reports.

The final decision?  We didn’t leave.  We will wait out the chill and rain here on a dock until Tuesday.

Tuesday through Friday should be 60s (warmer than the frost last night for sure), no rain, plenty of sun, light winds (for crossing the next two large bodies of water) and we will have North West Winds on Tuesday for the Neuse River which should be pretty ok, since we will be motoring anyway.  The winds will be too light for us to sail starting today for the next week anyway.

So – comfort has been a major determining factor for us.  If it’s kicking up and good sailing weather, we’re ok with that, as long as it’s kicking up in the right directions.  Why go out and get our asses kicked trying to hold a course under sail when there are channels to worry about?

A friend asked me the other day, “In a do-over, would you chose a different boat?”

I believe at this point the answer is a resounding “YES”.

To travel the ICW in a full keel, deep draft sailboat isn’t fun or easy, and nothing about it has been simple.  I’ve had more white knuckle moments than sitting in a Jungle in Central America getting shot at caused me.  I could at least shoot back.  I can only adjust the sails in changing winds – which is great if you’re not constrained by the channel….

I’m certain that, somewhere down the line we will wind up sitting on an anchorage, in the wind, rain and hail or something and waiting out another weather condition.  So, why bother putting yourself in that situation?  When it comes right down to it, we’re honestly not in a huge hurry to go anywhere in particular.  We just want to eventually get someplace warm.

What is funny is, when I ask “Where are you headed?” to the other cruisers, all have the exact same response, “Someplace warm… south….”

We have met some very nice people so far along this part of the trip.  All of them save one or two are like us, first timers.  Many have only been at cruising for two or three months.  One person has been sailing forty years, but this is his first trip down the ICW.  Another retired a few weeks ago and started down.

In general, ALL of them have had almost the exact same thinking processes as we have.  Make a plan, get the plan in motion, move the boat south – and every one of them have had the same thoughts of “quitting”, going back home, the boat was wrong for the journey, and a host of other tid bits about this trip.

In other words, all of the people who’ve gone before us who had no issues probably had the same issues and they didn’t consider them to be “issues”, or just problems to be solved.  I think that is perhaps the best attitude.  Everything is a problem to be solved, and solving it is what comes to the forefront when dealing with moving the boat.

Whether it is plumbing, engine issues, alternator issues (as in our case), fuel problems, electronics malfunctions or simple failures, we all have the same problems with which to deal.  In my case, it seems like there are more problems to solve at once probably because I let them get to me and worry about them too much.

One problem we had was the charts we have.  For some reason, I don’t even recall why now, I picked up ALL the charts for the east coast.  And yet, did NOT pick up all the charts for the east coast.  I was missing a rather important set.  Florida and the Keys.  How I did that, I’m not sure.  Perhaps because I took one of the chart titles at it’s word and didn’t actually open it up and look inside until much later.

That chart (Maptech) says “Norfolk to Florida”.  I made a dumb assumption I suppose and thought it contained Florida charts.  Nope.  It should really have said “Norfolk to Florida: Not inclusive of Florida” haha.  Anway, I mentioned this and Judy Long and Stephen who were in Washinton offered to come and bring the chart.  When I said I didn’t want them to make a special trip, they said they were coming anyway.

Turns out, and I had not quite put the puzzle pieces together yet, Bentana, their boat is sitting nearby!  So they were coming to deal with some problems too, on their ship.  So we had a get together on our boat, with some wine and nibbles.  And they brought the missing chart for me.

I still need the one for the West Coast of Florida, but apparently Maptech is phasing them out now.  Everything is going digital.  Mark my words, that’s a BAD idea…. but that’s another discussion for another time.

Alright, time to get going to get some propane.  The hardware store opens at 1300 today.  I’ll take a golf cart into town (it’s four blocks, long ones, but I don’t want to carry that tank back all the way)!

Lastly, I’ve uploaded some images of things along the way.  Hope you enjoy the image dump!

Here’s some pictures of places along the way:

Sunset over Cole’s Point Marina before departure

ICW Canal

Norfolk Naval Station

Two very large ships… Aircraft Carriers (Don’t know which ones)

The same A/C carriers in the above picture, from Willoboughy Bay.  Adventure in the foreground.  We were aboard the s/v Acadia visiting and going over charts with Marcia and Jon

Behind us somewhere a couple of days ago

The Sailing Ketch Adventure in the back, Sailing Schooner Adventure in the front

Sailing Schooner Adventure

(Our neighbors one night)

The Great Bridge Lock

Great Bridge Lock, looking back

Taylor, from Atlantic Yacht Basin, Great Bridge

(Thanks for everything, Taylor!)

Me, JoAnne and the USS Sequoia – Presidential Yacht, Fishing Bay Marina

Some Right Piraty Looking Rigging

A visit to the Reedville area, and we discovered this ketch waiting for Kurt to come and get her in the water 🙂

Lo-Kee

Lo-Kee

ICW – Willoboughy Bay, VA to Coinjock, NC

When last you tuned in, our intrepid band of Adventurers found themselves in Willoboughy Bay.

We hoisted anchor and headed out intent on making it to the Great Bridge.

We were all nervous about the bridges and lock. Both the boat crews, Adventure and Acadia are pretty new to this stuff and we were buddy boating together for moral support I suppose. And I wanted some assurance of the depth so I let them go first to call out depths if it got to shallow. We saw no stuck boats along the way, so obviously it wasn’t too bad. I’m SURE there were boats with deeper drafts than ours passing through before us.

We motored the entire distance from Willoboughy Bay to the various bridges. The first one was easy. The next one was fixed. Norfolk and Western was open. Gillmerton was one we had to wait for, no problems, except we had to wait for 30 minutes because we arrived too soon I guess.

Then we got to the lock. We had to wait at the lock. A long time. Anyway, the lock turned out to be NO problems at all. We got to the Great Bridge, everyone waited, they opened it, and we pulled over at the Atlantic Yacht Basin for the night. Acadia got fuel, we docked. The next morning I pulled the boat around and fueled up and then we left after both boats were ready to pull out.

Again, Acadia led. When we arrived at the Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge I remained behind Acadia a few dozen yards. Our boat takes awhile to get up to speed, and it takes awhile to stop. If the wind isn’t on the nose (and even if it is) inertia on her is tremendous. Takes sometimes 5 or 6 boat lengths to come to a stop. There was no wind. And it takes a few minutes even at full throttle from a dead stop to get up any speed.

We all started through (after being admonished to “GET CLOSER” by the bridge master) – a large power boat, Acadia, then us. Then as I’m coming up on the bridge the guy on the radio starts yelling at me for being “slow” and tells me, while yelling into his radio, “I should CLOSE this bridge on YOU NOW”.

He didn’t… and to my own credit I didn’t tell him what I thought of him. I “thanked him” politely and went on and let it roll off my back.

I know these guys are government workers. And I know that some can be assholes. This guy was an asshole, and a jerk to boot. I hope someone reads this and says something to him, but probably not. (And I’m sure someone else will say I was in the wrong, even though they weren’t there, lol). To prove I was not wrong, here’s the regulation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/499

I understand there are cars, I understand it “holds people up”. But, I ALSO know the history of bridges, and boats DO have right of way. We were within 100 yards of the bridge (It was a swing bridge and swings to the north). We were behind another sailboat, neither known for their maneuverability in close quarters with full keels – us, and them with a full keel and a board that was up). We moved as SOON as the bridge opened, and it took time to get up to speed, and NOT make a wake because we’d been admonished NOT to do that either….. Finally, the bridge was opened for less than 4 minutes from the time the first boat shot through, to the time I plodded through. And it was well within the normal opening time (about 10:30, and in fact, 3-4 minutes late).

Here’s the rub though. Federal law (33 U.S. Code – Regulations for drawbridges) mandates boats have right of way at bridge crossings. Yeah, several states have adopted rules on busy bridges and won’t open at all during certain times, and only open maybe on the hour or half hour during daylight hours. Or they open on signals from the boats passing them. So, why is a bridge tender screaming at a slow moving sailboat whose top speed is rarely more than 6 knots under engine power (with the wind behind it mind you)? Good question.

But, oh well. That was the beginning of my day yesterday. The first day out of Willoboughy Bay went fine. Even passing giant ships, cargo vessels, aircraft carriers, and two ships coming out about the same time as we were passing, we negotiated things fine.

When we got to the first sound, it was hairy. Wind was blowing pretty hard and apparently causing a current, which I didn’t realize would happen. I expected long fetch to generate waves… but not necessarily current. I manage to get pushed out of the channel 2 or 3 times towards the end of the run, to the point I was seeing 7 foot depths and at 6 feet, I was going to hit the ground, probably hard. The wind was either on the nose sometimes or just off the starboard bow and helping kind of push us sideways as well.

It was nerve racking knowing that hitting the ground there was going to stop us cold and we’d likely have to get towed out of it.

When I arrived last night I was short tempered with everyone and upset at myself because it wasn’t going smoothly, I’d been yelled at for no real reason by some “authority” who really shouldn’t be doing that anyway. I was hungry, tired and literally exhausted. I made the decision to stop here at Midway in Coinjock (JoAnne had called and gotten a reservation for us) and the Acadia – who thought they had a reservation at Coinjock across the way, didn’t have one and moved on to an anchorage.

So, Jon and Marcia went on ahead and we said good bye over telephone (because we had 4G and 5 bars, how cool is that for the first time to be able to actually communicate using a phone in damned near a year?) and hope we cross paths again.
They are pulling out someplace near Raleigh-Durham to visit grand kids I think. We’re headed as south as we can get in the next couple of weeks.

Last night I decided we’d remain on the docks here for a couple of days. There’s a good blow coming tomorrow, 16-20 knots I saw on one report, maybe rain later tonight and perhaps tomorrow. Saturday MIGHT be a good day. I’ll look over my GRIB files in the morning and decide if we will leave Saturday or Sunday morning. Since we’re motoring, NO wind would be the best thing I can hope for.

But, I took the time to pull the aft compartment apart, open up the batteries, check everything, and run an equalization on them, which seems to have helped them a bit. I’m hoping to get the batteries to go back to float again on the meter, but not sure if they are damaged or not. My hydrometer is hokey and I’ll have to get a decent one (I have two, one is really old and it doesn’t seem to work either.)

At this point I think I have the batteries, and the charging system “synced” finally. I still don’t think the main system batteries are holding a charge right though. I’ll check things once more in the morning.

The other issue that boat Acadia and Adventure had seems a little odd for fiberglass boats. Rust spots. Millions of them. They appeared out of nowhere and we discovered them a day or so after we were in Fishing Bay. At this point we suspect the lift (we were both lifted, we were cleaned and they were worked on for battery replacement, and a serious leak at the rudder post). We considered the cleaning might have done it, but they weren’t cleaned I don’t believe. Just hoisted up and worked on. So I think that the steel cables (which were rusty) or the engine (diesel, with a large flapping exhaust pipe) might be the culprit.

It is most likely the engine was blowing exhaust out, along with water, and rusty from the old lift engine and splattered both our boats.

I knew that if I could get some oxalyic acid I could likely get the stuff off. JoAnne found a solution, she handed me a can of stuff that looks like “Ajax” in a can, but is called “Bartender’s Friend” which is used in bars and restaurants to clean stainless steel, apparently. She had purchased some so I could use it on the old stainless grill we have. Which I did and it worked, and I’d forgotten all about it. It also worked on the stains too. I didn’t get them all off but I did get the worst of it gone.

The boat top is in dire need of paint. One day, I’ll paint it. Mean time I have to keep washing her down.

Now to the not so good part. Pulling up to the dock I lost all steerage. I knew that I needed to come in slow, as there was a boat in front of me, and one behind. I slowed too much. I managed to not get the boat turned in time and though we were moving at fractions of a knot, I caught the bow pulpit against a dock post. The post remained undamaged, but the pulpit steel bent a bit. I tried today to engineer a fix, and succeeded in pulling it back a small amount. But the starboard side is push back an inch or two. I’ll fix it.

So, batteries seem to be doing ok. Got the little rusty spots off the plastic (haha). Got through the first stretch of the ICW. Got some sleep last night, and planning to sleep well tonight.

Oh… best part of today. We are the sailing Ketch Adventure. I was told by the owner here that it was funny, another boat named adventure was coming in. Sure enough, today, right in front of us, the sailing schooner Adventure shows up. A large, steel ketch, complete with ratlines up the rigging, shorter masts than we have, but a wider behind. The cockpit is huge and she’s over all a beautiful boat. But, of all the lookie-loos today, most of them stopped here to look at us, and not at the other boat.

I was proud 🙂

(then again, they could have been staring at the horrible paint, my bent steel, the dirt on my hands and feet and knees from cleaning, and sniffing the smell of sulfur as the batteries cooked below… who knows?)