Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Month In Ft. Lauderdale

Well, it's finally here!  After a month or so in Ft. Lauderdale spent in work on Pelican, play, and preparing for the jump to the Bahamas, the plan is to leave Saturday evening, January 21st, for the passage at south of Memory Rock into the Little Bahama Bank on the way to Great Sales Key and the Abacos.  My friend John Brown will be with me for a week and that'll be fun!

As you know I broke the windlass base in the Delaware Bay.  Well, you would if you'd read the entry.  Suffice it to say, you can't anchor there, you can't anchor in 5 foot seas with 20 to 30 knot winds.  That will break stuff.  What it broke on Pelican was the part of the deck that the windlass is mounted on and it bent the wildly insufficient backing plate.

Windlass removed,  deck repaired with
biaxial cloth and epoxy.
The process to repair, of course it to take it all apart, grind out the broken fiberglass, repair with new, and put it all back together with a stronger backing.  Also, I added 1" to the height so that the windlass was in a better position to bring the anchor over the roller without jumping off the gypsy.  The stronger backing is a 3/8" stainless steel plate that covers the entire area below the windlass.  It replaces the bent 1/16" plate which was exactly the size of the windlass base.
Base installed, 3/8" backing plate
before installation below.

You can see the added 1" spacer to
raise the windlass.
Windlasses are one of the most neglected pieces of equipment on a vessel.  The second most neglected are winches.  I've seen them literally disintegrate in the locker.  The owner's complaint is that the windlass won't raise the anchor and upon inspection the entire thing is a ball of mushy corroded aluminum.

So while I had to disassemble the windlass, I also did all the maintenance.   Greasing, oiling, corrosion control and painting.  The gear below deck looks and acts like new.  Above deck looks more or less the same.  One problem I ran into is that the added height causes some very slight interference with the anchor locker door.   The downside is that it's a bit difficult to open the door but the upside is that the door stays open without any hassle.

Besides provisioning Pelican for some extended time, there were many other projects to do or complete.  One of the things that had been annoying me was that the water pump ran for a second or so every few minutes.  That usually indicates leaks.  But when I replaced all the fittings and piping near the water heater and checked all the other fittings with no leaks showing themselves I was completely annoyed when the pump continued its behavior. 

It turns out that the inexpensive water pumps eventually get a build up on the diaphragm.  This causes them to leak backwards.  The pump is $110, the rebuild kit is $89.  So it's not worth rebuilding.  Fortunately, I had a spare so I installed it and hey! presto!  problem solved.  That all was a day out of my life.

I've been meaning to repack the rudder shaft which has been weeping for some time.  I've adjusted it a few times but it didn't last long.  I found that the packing was probably original with only two rings.  That's not a bad run.  I used Duramax packing with three rings. Problem solved.

Before I left Connecticut I replaced my port water tank with a Plastimo 200L (52 gal.) flexible tank.  It leaked.  It ruined my cabin sole.  That's another story.  I thought that perhaps that tank leaked so I tried the spare I had.  Leaked.  Leaks from the fittings.  So I tried a bigger o-ring.  Still leaks.  Finally, gooped it with 5200 where the fittings connect inside the o-rings and waited for 24 hours.  No more leaks!  Put tank in service.  Been brilliant ever since.  Performed the same operation on the spare.  I can see how those fittings are supposed to work.  Sadly, they don't work that way and a sealant is necessary.   I'm surprised no one else has had the problem.

Other small projects like maintenance were putting the water maker in service, changing the transmission fluid, cleaning the generator carb and so forth.  I rebuilt the old Racor and have installed it as a fuel polishing system/spare filter-fuel pump arrangement.

One of the great things about Ft. Lauderdale is that you can get anything that has anything to do with marine stuff done and for reasonable prices.  And one of the bright stars of those places is McDonald Hardware on State Rt. 84 otherwise known as Marina Mile.  They are an old fashioned hardware store but they have all sorts of marine stuff, really helpful staff and prices that are pretty close to the West Marine Pro prices for wire, hose, and fasteners.  And then there's the tools.  They have everything!  Even if you don't need anything you need to stop there.  Well worth the visit.

In between, of course, has been fun.  Seeing the Ft. Lauderdale New Years fireworks, a visit from Lynn, the odd barbecue, dinner with friends, visiting friends in Delray Beach and sailing a radio controlled boat, and much, much more.   There's been a lot of bike riding hither and yon.

As much fun as it's been, it's time to go!

Here's an addition to the time here.  When I last took a journey on Pelican to the Florida Keys I purchased a Citizen Bike.  Citizen makes a number of bikes, but this one was aluminum, light weight, foldable with Shimano 6 speed gearing.  Admittedly, it's spent a number of years in storage, but I've been using it pretty heavily down here rather than renting cars or whatever.

Long story short, the right pedal pulled out of the crank, threads stripped.  I thought it would be a MarineTex repair, but no, I thought, why not call Citizen Bikes and see what the best solution was.  Imagine my surprise to find they're in Dania, not 7 miles from here!

I made an appointment for this morning for the repairs.  Naturally, I arrived early.  Nothing doing but they took the bike, asked me to come back in an hour, which I did, and hey! presto!  Repaired like new!  Also, very, very inexpensively.

So if you need a folding bike, please check out Citizen Bikes.  Not only are they very price competitive but their service is, apparently, without equal.  Highly recommended.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Brunswick GA to Fort Lauderdale FL

Leaving Hidden Harbor Marina
It's been some time, eh?  Nearly a month home doing winterizations on boats and celebrating and so forth, all of which have nothing to do sailing but everything to do with life and fun.  So, eventually I returned to Pelican in Brunswick GA at the Hidden Harbor Marina.

I had a couple of days to get ready for a very special visitor, Lynn, who had volunteered to come with me to Fort Lauderdale - usually a very pleasant trip...

Before I continue, though, I have to thank David, the owner of Hidden Harbor Marina, who was kind enough to take Pelican in for a month.  Although you're not allowed to live aboard there, the docks are nice, it's well protected, and there are people who look after the boats.  It's a good in-water storage place.

Also, I have to thank Lee and Karen who provided much love and support and allowed me to borrow their extra car to drive to Connecticut and back, as well as to provision and generally carry on.  Great people!

Lynn and I left Saturday, December 9th, around 10 in the morning from Hidden Harbor Marina with
Lee and Karen doing dock crew service.  It was a cloudy and overcast day, around 45 degrees or so.  We decided to go inside based on the weather service's prediction of 30kts offshore.  The plan was to get to Fernandina Beach, FL.  We motored and motor-sailed when we could.

As we passed south of Jekyll Island we found the wind out of the east, but nowhere near 30kts.  Still, at that point, it's shorter inside.  Eventually we got to Fernandina Beach and found only one of the marinas actually in complete service - and that was full.  One was completely destroyed and the other partially so.  It was still early, around 4pm, so we continued on to Amelia Island Marina, just on the island side of the bridge.

Sunset at Amelia Island Marina
We met Steve, the Dockmaster, just before he left for the day - he showed us around and proudly pointed out the completely rebuilt heads.  They're beautiful!  We had been pretty cold for most of the day - and were ready for hot showers in those beautiful, warm facilities.  A lovely dinner on board and the heater running during the night made the stay pretty much alright.

The plan was to get going early in the morning so we could get to St. Augustine early enough to walk around town.  When we got up, there was ice on the docks!  Ice!  In Florida!  Arrrgh!

Hello from sunny Florida!
So we were all ready to go at 7:30, engine running, untied, on our way out.  Well, no.  We were aground.  Dead low tide, but there was supposed to be water enough.  Ok, wait until 8:30.  Off we go.  No, we don't.  There's a bar about six feet behind the slip.  We're not going anywhere.  Ok, let's go for a walk.  9:30 - off we go, still bumping behind the slip, but after that all good.

It's a beautiful day!  It got up to 48 degrees so we could remove one or two layers.  There's not a lot else to say, except we got into St. Augustine Municipal Marina around quarter to six as the sun was setting.  We're getting pretty good at coming into places nearly at dark...

Christmas in the Slave Market
The marina had lots of damage from Irma.  There's power at the fuel dock and a couple of slips at the end and there's power on the first finger and northern dock.  But most of the marina is without.  You'd think they'd give a break to people who take slips without power, but no.  I think I'll be using a different marina the next time I come through.

Lynn and I went to dinner at La Pentola - I had been there before and wanted to see if it was as good as before.  Also, fancy-ish.  It's good, a little pricy, and the sommelier is more inclined to push their wines than recommend good ones.   But otherwise, a very pleasant evening.

Lynn wanted to go out to breakfast (an activity I find extremely agreeable)

Bridge of Lions lion
in the morning so we went to the Athena Restaurant, right on the north side of the Market.  When we got up to go to the heads, I met and started talking with the owners of Venture Lady,  Andy and Allison who were also going there.  We all went together and had a terrific time!  They've brought Venture Lady from the U.K. and were off to the Bahamas.

We decided to cruise together until they left to go out from Cape Canaveral Canal.  Anyway, shortly after leaving St. Augustine, in an effort to avoid a TowBoat U.S. boat towing a sailboat very erratically.  It was way too close to the edge of the channel, and the towed boat was telling him the water was a bit thin.  It was because in no time at all  Pelican was stuck fast.

Our friends on Venture Lady passed us with a wave and a commiseration.  Finally, as I was getting ready to kedge us off, a couple of powerboats came by and their wake got me off far enough to be underway again.

A little while later, sadly, Venture Lady hit a sand bar and Allison got a little bit injured - not seriously but enough to raise a welt on her face.  Fortunately, we were still in radio contact and they gave us the way through the very narrow channel.

Sunset, Daytona Beach
We all anchored just north of Seabreeze Blvd bridge on the east side - A nice anchorage with a good seven to eight feet.  Andy and Allison came over for cocktails which turned into dinner and drinks.  Eventually we all needed some sleep and so they left and we didn't.

The next morning we got underway around 8.  We made it to the Coronado Beach Bridge around 10 in brilliantly clear and warmish weather.  Shortly after New Symrna Beach we had the wind to motor sail down to Haulover Cut.  It was beautiful!  Then it as we turned into the cut, the wind was on the nose and it was 20-25kts.  From that point on, the wind was on the nose or too close to sail.

Haulover Cut Bascule Bridge
We got down to the Addison Point Bridge early-ish, and decided to
anchor since the bridge wouldn't open until 5pm.  So rather than anchor, wait, and then re-anchor in the dark we just stayed.  Venture Lady caught up with us and decided to stay, too.  So, cocktails on Venture Lady!  Woohoo!  A good time was had by all.

The next morning we wanted to get underway early enough to make it to Ft. Pierce anchorage and the 8 am opening of the Addison Point Bridge.  Weighed anchor and headed towards bridge.  Engine sucking air again.  What the hell?   Changed the filter element - sort of helped us get through the bridge at 9.  But engine still running badly.  Raised sails, left Lynn at the helm - bypassed everything again.  Engine runs fine.  Sails down in lightening breeze.  Headed to Telemar Marina for fuel.

While there, I changed the last thing - the fuel shutoff valve.  Started the engine, frightening amount of air.  But it slowed down, finally stopped. No more air.  Been running fine ever since.

Manatees in Telemar Marina
But the very cool thing was the manatee pair we saw near the fuel dock!  The water was clear and Lynn got some very good pictures!  I've never seen them so clearly.  It appeared to be a mother and calf.  Hard to tell, though.  They came to see if the splashing water from the exhaust was fresh (they love that).

With only 45 minutes lost to this fueling and repair, we were off again.  Because of our issues with the engine, we lost two hours and found a beautiful anchorage just north of Vero Beach - 7 feet of water and quiet and calm and dark with almost no light pollution, in good holding ground.  Oddly, we could hear Interstate 95.  When I anchor, I always have a look for points I'll see even at night to check we're not dragging.  One was a building on shore.  I commented to Lynn that it was odd no one was home even as dark fell.

It was a lovely evening.  Watched the stars, sunset, and more.  Saw satellites and shooting stars.  The water was like glass. And for the first time we weren't freezing!  It was a pleasant night.  The next morning as I was raising the anchor I saw the building.  There was a good reason for no one being home - it was completely wrecked.  A deteriorating hulk.  That explains Lynn's look when I mentioned no one was home...

We had a plan to stop at Manatee Pocket for the evening, but since we arrived there around 2 pm we decided to continue on to Lake Worth.  As we passed Vero into Ft. Pierce we saw three manatees who had been mentioned on the VHF.  They like the channel, apparently.

Jupiter Inlet Light and Museum
By 4 pm, we had gotten to Jupiter Inlet and spent the next hour and a half waiting for bridges - thankfully the Donald Ross Bridge tender helped us out by extending the opening for us - we got the 5 pm opening and made the other two bridges in fine fettle.   We arrived at Old Port Cove Marina at 6:20 - in the dark again.  But they gave us the easiest in and out slip possible - directly in front of the entrance, inside the T-head.

We went to dinner at the local restaurant which was really very good - a little pricey, but everything was done right and the waitstaff was attentive and friendly.  An easy place to go.  The marina was like new, good, sturdy, and wide docks.  Clean.  And very fairly priced for the area.  Recommended.

Friday arrived and we decided for the last day to take it easy - I mean, we only had like 40 miles to go and figured we'd have a walk, a little breakfast (at the express place across the hall from the restaurant - we should have made our own, frankly. Yuck.)

We got ourselves together and left the dock at 9.  I had to check in before that because we'd arrived after the staff went home.  Anyway, got a bottle of wine for our trouble and a good discount.  Nice people, and I'd definitely go there again.

Back to our trip.

The marina is only a few miles from the Lake Worth inlet.  And then, poof!  Into the Atlantic!  Sadly, there was no wind to speak of.  So off we motored under a brilliant blue sky and calm seas.   Other than the beauty of the trip, nothing to report.  Everything worked fine.

Entering Fort Lauderdale going under the 17th Ave Bridge
We entered Port Everglades around 4:30 but had to wait until 6 pm to go up the New River.  Hah.  We took our time and motored over to the entrance to Bahia Mar and waited for three quarters of an hour.  A police boat came alongside and asked if we were all right.  I said I was waiting to go up the New River when the bridges would open again.  He said he didn't see many sailboats where I was.  What do you say to that?  I said, "Merry Christmas!"

So now it was 6 and time to go up the New River as darkness was falling.  Truthfully, it was only 40 minutes and 4 bridges, but it was the longest 40 minutes of my life.  The New River is narrow, with very expensive vessels on either side and big boats coming and going, like Jungle Queen - a tourist party boat.  But apparently my inexperience showed because the bridge tenders were kind, held bridges, talked us through and generally showed extreme patience.  The commercial boats and professional captains were equally polite.

Entering the New River at Sunset
Up at Davie Blvd bridge I pulled off the river to let the big boats do their thing and they were thankful.  What a pleasure.  Nothing like the bridge tender in Old Saybrook who won't open the bridge if you don't call it the "Old Lyme Railroad Bascule Bridge" instead of the Amtrak bridge or Saybrook Bascule bridge even though it is the ONLY Amtrak bridge for miles and it's the ONLY bascule bridge in Old Saybrook.   But that's a different story.

So we made it!  Laura and Cory had dinner ready for us - good friends and great food.  Nice to be here.  Now work on Pelican begins.

Derelict boat recovery
We saw, during our travels, a couple of barges full of wrecked boats - and in Little Lake Worth (Old Port Cove Marina) the recovery crane and tugs.  Apparently a non-profit corporation has been set up to remove storm damaged boats and dispose of them.  This is truly great!  I hope the work can continue.  Sad to see so many wrecked boats, but good to see them removed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Beaufort NC to Brunswick GA

Sometimes I make the correct decision.  Waiting until daylight and going offshore were two of them.

It was my plan to leave Town Creek Marina to catch the 6am Gallants Channel
When you don't pay attention to marks
bascule bridge opening which is the shortest way to the Beaufort Inlet from where I was.  But it was dark, the channel narrow and frankly it was too difficult to get myself together.  Also not knowing exactly where the channel was I didn't want to end up like the guy pictured to the left. So I went the back way out that was surprisingly easy and quick.

I was waffling about whether to go inside or not until a passing comment about Camp LeJeune firing exercises came up.  With a bit of searching I found out several things: 1; the AICW is closed while they're firing across it, 2; there is only one 1 hour opening at noon to allow vessels to pass, 3; there's a site to get the schedule, and 4; the US Coast Guard has the phone number for the Fire Control Officer.

So off into Onslow Bay I went.  The wind was 10kts or so and seas 1 to 4 ft in
A hitchhiker comes aboard
swells; in other words, calm.  My hopes of sailing to Wrightsville Beach dashed.  Straight line distance is about 65 nm so I set myself to about 10 hours of motoring and wasn't disappointed in that.  I got a small push from the jib and mizzen for a couple of hours but then the wind died. 

Banks Channel looking at Wrightsville Beach
Just as the sun was setting I got through Masonboro Inlet to Banks Channel and anchored with a few other vessels.  It was beautifully calm and quiet and despite all the stuff surrounding it, dark.  It's a well protected place to anchor with good holding.

The next morning with current with me I flew down the ICW towards Snow's Cut through to the Cape Fear River. 

There was enough wind, eventually, to pull out the jib.  Sadly, the right turn towards Snows Cut was really close!  Back in went the sail.

Entering Snows Cut 
Snows Cut is narrow and deep (in the channel) and very hard out of the channel.  Going against the current at max flow is nearly impossible for me.  Fortunately, my friend in Wilmington, Bill Willetts,  had timed it perfectly.  On the Cape Fear River side of the cut there's a small channel that goes north around some spoil areas.  It looks like you could make it.  Unless your draft is less than two feet, don't try.   What was wierd was a large container ship was passing the other end of the channel and it looked as if he were actually in it.  It took me a minute to figure that out...

Once in the Cape Fear River the current was very definitely with me!  I thought the trip to Wilmington would be 6 hours or so.  In reality, only four.  Port City Marina is big, new, and beautiful.  My friend, Bill, and my neighbor, Chris, helped me in.  No one died, no gnashing of teeth. 

The marina has a band shell, a wide main dock, and its own pump out boat. Apparently, every two weeks they have some shindig at the band shell.  I happened to be there the weekend that Dwight Yoakam was putting on a show and the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise was to be there for tours and good will as part of its Atlantic trip this year.

Pender's Cafe Wilmington NC
I asked Bill for a good breakfast place and a few blocks away was Pender's Cafe.  It is my kind of place with good breakfast cheap.  It doesn't look like much and it's not very big but worth the stop especially if breakfast if your meal of the day!

After breakfast, I took a walk along the Riverwalk - a boardwalk that goes from one end of Wilmington to the other.  It's a lovely long walk and well worth taking the stroll.  Because it was morning (early-ish) the shops alongside were closed.  I'll bet it's really bustling during the summer months.
Wilmington River Walk looking north

Rail museum
There is also a Rail Museum in Wilmington which I saw from the outside but never got a chance to see on the inside.  It looks interesting enough.

Bill and I took advantage of the free tours of the "Arctic Sunrise".  We wanted to see the engine room but that wasn't to be.  Still, interesting enough.

Pot Luck Dinner
Bill's boat (Jolly Mon, Hatteras 52) is on the 'T' of our dock.  That means we had better seats for the concert than more people who paid!  A great pot luck party ensued with two types of chili, pulled pork, rice, beans, roasted corn and what-have-you.  It was a good, if short, concert with Dwight playing only for an hour or so. 

Greenpeace "Arctic Sunrise"
Meanwhile, on the same day, the park just north of the marina hosted a beer fest.  It was very popular with the college crowd.  If I drank beer, I'd've gone. 

The next day, Sunday, Bill and I went to a ribs place - Mission BBQ - where you get dry rubbed ribs.  Really good ones, too.  Highly recommended.   If I ever go back I have the cup that allows me free iced tea.  So there's that.

Monday morning.  I had planned to go out the Cape Fear River and outside to Charleston - about 20 hours.  The wind was right, the current was right and I was flying down the river motor sailing.  As I left Bald Head Island to port and entered the Cape Fear channel the waves were pretty steep - I buried the bow a couple of times.  One actually lifted the 75lb anchor off the roller.  Fortunately the restraining cable kept it aboard or it could have been a real disaster.

Anyway, about two hours into the open ocean the engine problem returned with a vengence.  I checked the Racor and great, honking bubbles passing through.  This is not good - I had checked the whole fuel system except the Racor.  So I bypassed it.  Hey, presto!  Engine runs fine. 

I called my friend, Cory, for an opinion about running another 20 hours with no fuel/water separator.  His comment was, "What's the worst that could happen?  Water gets to the injectors, they plug or water gets into the cylinders and you ruin the engine."  Sometimes, it's best to change plans.

New course:  Little River Inlet.  I finally got a slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club and ordered a new Racor from Boater's World in Little River.  That took me two days, or rather I had to wait until 2:00pm the next day for the filter.  Amazing enough, but by the time it was replaced there was no where I could go in the few hours remaining.

The Myrtle Beach Yacht Club is a nice little marina.  The wifi sucks pretty much but the heads are clean.  There's a restaurant there (which I didn't go to, but I hear it's really good).  The docks are being resurfaced and all the people I spoke to are really nice.   If wifi isn't important to you, it's an inexpensive, well protected place to stop. 

Also, West Marine and Boater's World near by.  Helpful.

In order to miss all the stupid little bridges between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown I left the next morning for Winyah Inlet out the Little River Inlet (current with me yet again).  It was a calm and beautiful day.  I took the opportunity to add cleats to the main mast that I've really wanted to do for years.  They allow me to organize the halyards.

Sunset North Santee River
I came in the Winyah Bay Entrance around 1:30pm headed  into the ICW about an hour later.  By 5:30 I was anchored in a quiet little place in the North Santee River.   It was calm and cool and beautiful.  There is so much wildlife that I had never seen before in this area - a bald eagle was soaring around me, dolphin, big fish, egret, and all sorts of birds I don't know the name of.   Even cranes, I think.  And of course, pelicans.

The next morning I headed out with the plan of passing through Charleston towards an anchorage south.  I would have stopped there but there's no room to keep Pelican for the month I want to come home.  New plan is to leave her in Brunswick, GA.  It's a beautiful day and the tide rising so I can get through the ICW near Isle of Palms (notoriously shallow, even though recently dredged). 

Charleston from the harbor
All was going well until it wasn't.  There's a short distance where there's a bar that goes across the ICW leaving less than my 5.5' draft.   So for 40 minutes I waited for more water to get through.  What's worse, I had just called the Ben Sawyer Memorial Bridge requesting an opening.  Nothing says competence like
getting stuck right in the middle of a channel.  Fortunately, it was a quiet day and only a few small boats went by.  None of them laughed, for which I am grateful.

Wapoo Creek to Stono River
Easy peasy run through Charleston Harbor to the Wapoo Creek Bridge.  Got the 3:30 opening and was on my way!  Wapoo Creek is short, narrow, and has ripping currents.  But it's pretty and when you pass into the Stono River it's amazing. 

From there, it's just scooting down the ICW easily until it's almost sunset.  I had chosen Church Creek to anchor feeling it would be empty.  But surprisingly, there was a big yacht there!  That's ok.  We saluted each other with a cocktail at sunset, which was incredible!

The night was gorgeous!  A full moon so bright you couldn't see many stars with the water like glass.  It was almost so bright you could read in the cockpit.  If I hadn't made plans to meet friends Ken and Sherry in Port Royal I'd've stayed another day!

I was underway just past moonset with the sun still under the horizon.  The day was so clear, the water calm, and the current with me again, at least for a while.  Port Royal was only 35 nm away, straight line.  Six hours, I thought.  Let's all laugh together now.  Eight and a half hours later I ended up at the fuel dock of the Port Royal Landing Marina. 

Sadly, my friends weren't available that evening and so I decided to stay a couple of nights so I could have lunch with them the next day.  Sadly, because the stated Boat US discount wasn't applied to either the fuel or dockage.  When I asked about it they sort of indicated it would apply the next time I came there but they'd apply it if I really wanted.  That's not how discounts work.  There won't be a next time even though their docks are new floating concrete and very nice. 

The people running the place were very nice and helpful.  This was not their issue.

What I did do, though, is meet Bob and Sally on Endaxi, a Little Harbor 38.  I helped Bob out with his autopilot install. 

Ken and Sherry showed up around noon for lunch and we went to a lovely cafe in downtown Beaufort SC.  It was really pleasant catching up with them.  I hope to see them when they cruise Long Island Sound next year.

The next morning I left with in company of Endaxi towards Isle of Hope, or at least that was the plan.    I could have gone out Port Royal outside to Brunswick but it didn't seem to be useful.  Also, now I was early for going home by several days. It was foggy and cool, but not so foggy we couldn't travel safely.

Eventually the fog cleared and we continued across the Savannah River which was worrisome because of shoaling, but with the tide high it wasn't a problem at all.  Got through Causton Bluff bridge with no issues, and passed Isle of Hope Marina too early to stop.    Bob on Endaxi had chosen an anchorage in the Vernon River about an hour from Hell Gate, a well known 300 foot channel between Racoon Key and Harvey's Island.  The plan was to go through at high tide the next day.

The next morning dawned with fog so thick visibility was no more than 100 feet. Since I had to keep moving I asked Bob to follow me with my chart plotter, AIS, fog horn and charts.  At high tide there should be no real problems.  We planned to leave around 7 am, except for this:  He did not have enough power to start his engine and moreover, the battery charger had failed so that even running his generator wouldn't charge the batteries.

I had to leave him and Sally because I've had issues more than once at Hell Gate and I wanted to be there on a rising tide.  As I was cautiously making my way to there I got radio contact from  Twocan, a Kadey Krogen 50 something.  They were following me, looking for information. 

With great hesitation I entered the Hell Gate channel.  Visibility down to about 50 feet.  Fortunately the tide was so high that even out of the channel was 6.5 feet below the keel.  I was hyperventilating the whole time.  That said, it was over in like 4 minutes.

As the day progressed the fog lifted.  I heard over the VHF that Endaxi had called TowBoat U.S. for help.  I hope they made their goal of Doboy Sound. Before I left, I had indicated to them they had about 4 hours to make it through Hell Gate.

Morning in New Teakettle Creek, Twocan in background
Anyway, travelling in company of Twocan was nice - they passed me and indicated the shallows coming up.  It was helpful and a change from just motoring along alone.  We ended up anchoring in New Teakettle Creek where Twocan had be before.  That's where I learned of their names, Al and Susan.   After a longish discussion over the radio and a general sadness of neither of us having a dinghy in the water so we couldn't have a drink we signed off for the night.

The next morning I saluted Twocan as she left for Fernandina Beach before I weighed anchor for Brunswick.  I do hope I get to see them again and take them up on the cocktail!

By 11 am, I was docked at Hidden Harbor Marina where I met Jason, Jeff, and Cindy.  I have several projects to complete before I leave and so I'll be doing that and visiting with friends for a few days before leaving Pelican here while I go back to Connecticut for a few weeks.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Alligator River to Beaufort NC

First and foremost, people have been asking about the engine problem in Wicomico River - the burning rubber thing.   It was easy, peasy. The main fanbelt that drives the coolant pump and the alternator was loose.  Took all of 30 seconds to fix once the anchor was down.

Secondly, Lynn asked me to mention all the times we saw dolphins.  At least twice, maybe more, and I've now seen them in the Albemarle Sound and Alligator River, as well as the Neuse River.  They appear smaller and darker than the ones we saw in the Chesapeake and certainly than the ones I've seen in Florida and the Bahamas.  They never fail to tickle the fancy and someday I'm going to jump in with them.

Well, the, the fried chicken at the Alligator River Marina is great!  When I say great, I mean awesome.  And when I say awesome, I mean that if you ever get to the Alligator River Marina you have to have some.  I am sorry I just got two pieces instead of a bucket.  It was cooked right, without a lot (or any, I think) breading and spiced just right.  Not greasy at all. Highly recommended!

I left the Alligator River Marina around 7:30 in the morning and got an immediate opening at the Alligator River Bridge!  Woohoo!  It was a beautiful day with light winds out of the north east.  Moved along nicely all day.  It was uneventful with no troubles from the engine/fuel system.  That's a plus.

Alligator-Pungo River Canal
The Alligator-Pungo River  Canal is about 20 miles long with forests on each side (some more dead than alive) but on a sunny day it can be amazingly beautiful.  The wind was behind me and the seas calm and it smelled amazing!

I had the canal almost to myself this transit - but I did see enough dead heads to keep me alert!

Decaying Morgan Out Island
In the canal, though is a docked Morgan Out Island 41 sloop that has been there since I started travelling this route in 1992.  Every time I pass it it's a little (or a lot) rattier and I am surprised beyond belief it's still floating.  Now it's covered in guano.  Some years ago, the main sail was removed (having more or less rotted).  It's sad. 

Dowry Creek Marina 
Usually I stop in Bellhaven at the River Forest Marina or anchor behind the breakwater.  I've passed by the Dowry Creek Marina maybe a dozen times but as this is an adventure trip I thought, what the hell, this is as good a time as any to try it.

I am glad I did!  It's a great a little marina.  The man that owns the pharmacies in Bellhaven recently purchased the marina ( a couple of years ago ) and runs it when he can but has a couple of dock guys to handle it when he's not there.  Everyone is so friendly!  They didn't even laugh at me when I backed into my slip. 

They have a courtesy car.  It works.  I went to town to get some food and stuff.  It was fun going over 7 miles an hour for a few minutes!

My plan was to go to Oriental the next day but I was there by 2pm so I figured I'd just continue up to New Bern, another three hours.  I made the 5 pm Cunningham Bridge opening (yay!) by one minute.  How about that?  Saved an hour waiting.  Was tied to the Bridge Pointe Marina dock a few minutes later where loads of people came to assist.  It's a big deal, apparently. All very friendly, full of questions.  It was like a homecoming almost.

New Bern is a lovely little city - they've put a lot into it to bring in business and sort of upgrade the marinas which were damaged a few years ago in storms. One of the things they did was have people sponsor fiberglass bears and have them painted up to display outside their businesses.  It's pretty cool, and I include some here for your amusement.

The first night I was tired and just wanted to rest.  The next day Doug, Ron (his friend) and I spend doing all sorts of errands and eating and generally carrying on.  I liked it so much there I decided to stay one day longer, also because the weather report indicated Wednesday the 25th was supposed to have wind out of the west or north west off Beaufort as opposed to 15-20 kts out of the south with 8 foot seas on Tuesday.

When I left Monday it was only for a short hop to a small anchorage in Cedar Creek just off Adams Creek (the part of the ICW that goes from the Neuse River to Beaufort).  It got really windy and during the night rained torrentially.  But the anchor held (had to reset once when I arrived) and it was a comfortable night in reality although I worried the whole time.  Also, I found some new leaks.  I learned the next day from Doug that in addition to the rain, some of the gusts were 60mph.  It explains why I had so much trouble getting the anchor out.

The next morning I waited until the storm passed around 9 am, weighed anchor and set off for the Town Creek Marina in Beaufort.  Of course, the wind was on the nose and went to about 20 kts when I left Adams Creek. I took the Russell Creek back way into Beaufort so I wouldn't have to deal with the bridge to go to the Town Creek Marina.

A new bridge is being built there and the channel has changed a little bit, but with the help of Carol from Town Creek Marina I arrived in fine fettle.  And here I am, still in fettle, awaiting the change in wind direction so I can head south to Masonboro Inlet and Wrightsville Beach tomorrow morning.

If I have to, I'll go inside, but with northwest winds, maybe I can sail again!  Also, avoid those annoying bridges at Wrightsville Beach.

Well, next stop: Wrightsville Beach.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

St. Michael's to the Alligator River

Whew!  There are some stories to tell about this last week!

St. Michael's Crab & Steak House
Lynn and I spent two days in St. Michael's  - the first evening after arriving we went to the St. Michael's Crab & Steak House down on the harbor waterfront.  The rain had finally stopped but with high tide there was some water to ford getting there.

The food was pretty good - we both had crab dishes; mine a crab cake and hers a crab imperial.  Mine was delicious!  That was one healthy crab cake with little or no filler.  Big chunks.  Vegetables indifferent.  But that's not why you go there, anyway.  Crab.  Steak.  Go for that.

Main Street, St. Michael's
The next day, after Lynn finished her meetings, we went to wander around town.  St. Michael's is a cute little town that has amongst other things, a lot of restaurants and a winery, a rum distillery (Lyon's), a big salvage store (like antiques but not that old) and a lot of gift shops.

We had to go to Awful Arthur's Seafood Company for lunch because, well, with a name like that how could it be bad?  It couldn't.  They had amazing oysters on the half shell and we both had a great salad with fried oysters on it.  Odd, but the salad with fried oysters on it (6) was like $15, but the half dozen fried oysters alone as an appetizer was $12.  The salad was a better deal, frankly. 

After lunch, Lynn wanted to see the Lyon Distillery.  She had had them give a talk at one of the get-togethers and wanted to see the thing face to face, as it were.

Nothing would do but we had to taste all their rums.  They're not aged, but they are 'rested' for a couple of months in barrels.  They also make a vodka and gin. Unfortunately, their distribution is fairly small so you probably won't see their rum any time soon.

I'm not a big rum drinker, tending towards aged spirits (like Zapata rum, for instance).  I found these young and harsh.  But that's from an aged scotch drinker, so there's that.

Lynn had been threatening to make a chicken in a pot.  My disbelief in the process was strong.  But it was the night for it.  Guess what?  Not only is it possible, but it was terrific!  And afterwards there was chicken soup!  Brilliant.

The next day we were leaving for the southern Chesapeake, Solomon MD harbor.  It was sunny and humid and getting hotter.  Really hotter.  The 1400 log entry was, "38° 41.2N, 76° 23.9W SOG 6.8, COG 170° Engine 2000 rpm, 190°, 45#.  Fucking hot and sunny. Virtually no breeze.  We had to throw the last of the horses overboard today."

Solomon Island marinas
We found a gorgeous anchorage up the Mill River past Solomon Island.  It was time for a swim - Lynn convinced me to join her - she was quite enthusiastic about getting in the water.  

I think we had beef stew for dinner.  It was delicious!  Also, it cooled down and started misting.  Terrific.   During the evening we discussed going up the Patuxtent River to St. Leonard's Creek.  We took some time to choose an anchorage but way up the creek is Vera's Beach Club.  It is as surprising a find as you could expect. 

As the evening progressed, the skies became cloudier and the wind windier.  Thursday we left fairly early, on our way about 8am.  It was windy with small craft warnings.  But, hey, Pelican isn't a small craft.  We bashed our way out the Patuxtent River bound for the Piankatank River because I like the name.  After clearing the southern point of the river, we headed on a course of 170° and set a single reefed mizzen and reefed jib.

With the winds at 15-25, gusting to 30 out of the east and the seas at 3-6 feet we blew down the Chesapeake at a blistering 7.5kts SOG.  I must say, alone I would not have been out there but Lynn convinced me and I'm so happy she did!  What a sail!

Wolf Trap Lighthouse, Chesapeake
We reached the Wicomico River, just south of the Potomac.  As we turned into Ingram Bay, I furled the jib and started the engine.  Burning rubber smell, tach reading zero.  Not good.  Bad belt, probably, but not the place to fix it in the conditions we had.   

While travelling up the bay under reefed mizzen at 5.5kts we had a pod of dolphin playing with our wake and bow wave.  It was the first time Lynn had seen them.  She was thrilled, talking to them and pointing them out.  It was beautiful to see them again through someone else's eyes.

The plan was to sail into Cockerell Creek to anchor and fix the motor.   But we couldn't point high enough.  So we put out the jib and looked for another protected bay up the river to stop in.  As we passed Sandy Point on the port side we saw two boats already anchored.  Lynn steered us in and chose a spot to drop the anchor.  We furled the jib, and under mizzen she put us right where we wanted to be.  I dropped the anchor and as Pelican blew back, the anchor set and we were there.

Dammit, I wish you lot could have seen that!  It was perfect.  Quiet, professional, and efficient!   It was like old-timey sailing.

We were happily exhausted.  The wind was still up, but with the short fetch Pelican rested lightly on her anchor.

Lynn on the helm under full press of sail
The next day was Friday the 13th.  Sadly, Lynn's time with me on Pelican was growing short.  We had to make it to Norfolk, VA.  The wind was still up but moderating.  We got underway around 9 am.  We motored out to the Chesapeake with another dolphin escort.  What a beautiful way to start the day.

Winds were 15-20 so we raised all the sails when we got on course!  Lynn was on the helm grinning the whole morning.

We hand steered the whole day until we got to Thimble Shoal Light just outside Hampton Roads entrance.  After a rather unprofessional dropping of the main (my fault but here's what I found out: Pelican will heave to with grace and comfort. That's nice to know.)  Anyway, we proceeded into the harbor under jib and mizzen.   Once we turned down battleship row, we dowsed them as well and continued under power.

Here's the thing - just as we arrived to Thimble Shoals it started to rain.  And then it rained harder.  We travelled for another hour or so and arrived at Waterside Marina in down town Norfolk.  Now, I'd never been there and I knew it was across the Elizabeth River from the Tidewater Marina (where I have been) so I tried to get entrance directions from the marina hands.

Picture this: it's rainy and grey.  We're tired, wet and cold. It's getting dark.  Where is the entrance?  The directions  are to go to the battleship and look for the entrance.  Guess what?  Battleships are grey for a reason.  So we went really slowly until there was a GREAT BIG LIT UP SIGN, "Waterside"  right above the entrance.  That would have been a useful tidbit of information.

Anyway, easy in, easy tie up. 

The Waterside Marina is nice, small with good floating docks.  But it's near Norfolk's Waterside which is noisy.  A small park with big national restaurants and lots of activity on the weekends.  If you're looking for exciting things to do, this is the marina.  If you're looking for quiet, go to Tidewater Marina across the way.  For instance, we got in late Friday night and at 7 am Saturday they were doing sound checks with house music.

We wanted to go to a breakfast place so we wandered off to a place called 3 Way Cafe, but it didn't open until 10!  WTF?  It advertises breakfast and brunch.  I guess we just wanted breakfast too early.  Anyway, we met a couple, Brian and Wendy who gave us the bad news.  But nearby was d'Egg Diner which we all went to.  It was really good with friendly service.  I'd definitely go back!

After breakfast we walked to a nearby Enterprise car rental place and picked up Lynn's rental tank.  She had ordered an Altima but ended up with the biggest, blackest SUV I've seen.  I think an Armada.  What a tank.  A tank with comfort but a tank nonetheless.  We drove it to a local garage to park it until Sunday.

Battleship Wisconsin & I
Then we wandered off to the battleship Wisconsin. Man, that's a big ship.  I wouldn't want whomever's running that bad boy pissed off at me! 

We spent a lovely few hours wandering around the museum and ship.

But then it was nap time, don't you know.

We had a quite dinner.  Sunday, Lynn was heading home because someone needs to keep the world running.  Meanwhile, it was time for me to see my friends Bob and Nancy for brunch.

They met me at the marina where we were supposed to have brunch at Stripers, but it was closed until 11 and worse, it was under construction.  So off they took me to Leaping Lizard Cafe.  The bloody marys were great, the food excellent (although if you get the crab cake benedict, ask for extra hollandaise sauce beforehand.  You'll be glad you did.)

Cape Charles Light
After brunch we took a tour of the Cape Charles lighthouses and the beach.  They're on a military base and we had to show our IDs - mine was a license.  Not sure what that was all about, but Nancy had a real life military ID so we were completely cool.   Then we took a tour of Virgina Beach which has changed an incredible amount since I was there.  I suppose it's good for the state but it's just a tourist trap now.  Oh, well.

I had to get back - a big day was in the offing.  I was going to leave Norfolk at 5 am to catch the bridges.

I did even better than that.  I left at 4:38.  Once I got my bearings I was able to get down to the Gilmerton lift bridge pretty quick.  Guess what?  The rail bridge was closed next to it so I had to wait.  Feh.  When I got to the Great Bridge lock, I had to wait for shift change (a few minutes) and they locked me through for the 7 am Great Bridge opening!  Yay!

Old Cape Charles Light
But then, bummer.  The Centerville Turnpike Bridge was closed until 8:30 so I had to wait for an hour.  Feh.  But there was a Pearson 31 right behind me so when I tied up to the fuel dock there at the Centerville Marina, I had them come alongside.  I met Ron and his friend.  Ron was a Nuke, too, but an ET.  That was interesting.  He worked at Three Mile Island during its excursion (not his fault - he was off that shift) but stayed and retired from the company.   I hope to see them again.  We were going to meet at an anchorage just beyond Coinjock.

I had planned to stay at the Midway Marina and Hotel in Coinjock but I was there around noon, too early to stop. I had flown down the Currituck sound motor sailing at 7.5 kts steady.  There was a 15-20 kt breeze or so that was way aft of the beam and I had the jib out.

Well, I passed the anchorage about 2pm, also too early to stop.  Besides the wind had piped up quite a bit to like 25-30.  I decided to go for the Alligator River Marina, which made me cross the Albemarle Sound with following wind and seas.

This I can say:  I was very happy to not be going the other direction.  It started to rain, the wind was gusting over 30, and the waves short, steep, and up to 3 feet.  Even the autopilot was having trouble.  But I was flying!

I backed in!  Like a pro!
I arrived at the Alligator River Marina at about 5:30, cold, wet, and tired and where the grill was closed.  Feh.  One of the people I met at the Centerville Turnpike Bridge told me they had the best fried chicken in North Carolina.  Well, I had to try that.

Sadly, before lunch the next day, a truck ran into the power line and the grill went down until after closing.  So tomorrow, before I leave, I'm gettin' me a basket of fried chicken!

Well, that's about all for now.  Lots of adventures happened, lots more to go!  Oh, and someone suggested a font change.  Let me know if you like it.