Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Northern Abaco Sound (Walker's Cay to No Name Cay)

The northern Abacos have convinced me that there is no way to explore the Bahamas in a mere two to three months.  I've been here mostly on Green Turtle Cay for the best part of a month and I'm learning more about this place and making friends nearly every day.  Sadly, though, I can't drink as much as I used to and that seems to be a big part of the boater's life.  I say this, of course, while Happy Hour is happening at Pineapples and I'm sucking down rum punches, two for $6.  Tomorrow, I'm heading for No Name Cay for the day before jumping off around Whale Cay to the southern Abaco Sound.

Green Turtle Cay has been my home base for the month.  I think I've mentioned I've been on and off the dock here at the Other Shore Club.

My first week here I spent exploring the island - Gillam Beach, Brita Beach, in and out of town, so forth.

Beach Dis Way, Mon
Gillam Beach covers the whole southeastern tip of Green Turtle Cay.  It's very often deserted, and it borders a long and wide shallow bay where at low tide you can walk out to Pelican Cay.  The walk out to the beach is pointed out helpfully with a sign that tickled my fancy.

The beach itself is wide, white, and very easy to walk near the water.  Most of it is marked above the high water line as a bird sanctuary so you're not supposed to wander around in the woods.  To be truthful, you can get lost in the woods so you're best off just exiting the beach where you entered.  It seems like it would be easy to find your way through.  It's not.  Even locals get lost in there.   Anyway, there's swimming from the calm to the challenging.  All up to you.

I met some lovely people, Jeff and Nancy on Exile, at Pineapples and went visiting the next day to the Leeward Yacht Club for lunch.  It's a beautiful club, open to the public with a great bar and pool and views of the Black Sound.  After lunch we went for a walk to see the ocean side beach and wandered up a ways towards Brita Beach but it was hot and we were getting tired.  Thankfully, a local woman stopped by with her golf cart and gave us a lift to  Coco Bay where on a good day you can see and feed sea turtles.  Not that day, though.

The beach, New Plymouth in the
We ended up trudging to the Green Turtle Club where they rented a golf cart (for the trip home), and it was decided that we should really go for a drink because it was sunny and hot and 5 o'clock somewhere (even though it was only like three here).
Sands Pink Radler

So off we went to the Bluff House Beach Bar for a cool drink, mine being a new favorite of Sands Pink Radler which sounds girly but is, in fact, a healthy drink being only 2.5% alcohol and the rest grapefruit juice.   It's refreshing, it can be had with breakfast, and of course, it's a good source of vitamin C which helps with the dreaded rickets so very prevalent here.
The bar and deck

The Beach Bar is really beautiful, overlooking the Abaco Sound. The bar isn't always open so you have to choose your visiting time.  But as I later found out, the food's pretty good and it's a pleasant place to while away the hours.

Anyway, Jeff and Nancy gave me a ride back to Pineapples where I retired to Pelican for a quiet evening.

The next day or so I rented a golf cart and donned my thin wetsuit, loaded up the fins and snorkle and headed off to see the other beaches.  One beach in particular, Brita Beach, is a small cove protected by an even smaller cay and looked to have some fish and protection.  It has both.  Most of the ocean beaches are wide open to the reef and in east winds are unswimmable.  Also, when the wind kicks up the water is way too cloudy to see anything.  You can see the change from a clear greenish water to a milky turquoise.

After snorkeling all morning at Brita Beach and at the beach at the northwestern tip of Green Turtle Cay (where there are conk, helmet conch, barracuda and other fishes I can't even begin to identify) I headed to the Beach Club Beach Bar again for lunch... That's how I know the food is good.

I'd like to say that I was active every day.  No, I wasn't.  Oh, sure, I wandered around and so forth but seriously how much drinking and eating cracked conch can you do?  There is a limit.  I say this while eating cracked conch at Mangoes Restaurant in Marsh Harbor.  But I digress.

Pineapples and the Other Shore Club are owned/run by Sarah and Jesse.  Kevin is the dock master.  So I spent an incredible amount of time pestering them.  They were all unfailingly kind. They may not have the best facility on the island but they definitely have the friendliest with good, fresh food.  Jesse goes out every week for fish and lobster (which they call crayfish).

Manjack Cay south harbor
Anyway, I became stir crazy and headed off for a week at Manjack Cay. There are several anchorages but by far most popular is the southern one near Crab Cay.  It's a huge anchorage where it's not unusual to see 20 or more boats.  There's snorkeling on the reefs nearby by travelling by dinghy through the mangroves between Manjack and Crab Cays.  Manjack also has nature trails made and maintained by Bill and Leslie who live full time on Manjack.

Bill and Leslie purchased most of Manjack some 26 years ago and lived on their boat for a while there while they built a house.  They have great cisterns to collect rainwater from all their roofs and solar panels which supply all their power.  Cruisers who have taken the time to meet them find them lovely people with hearts as big as all outdoors. If they like you, they'll offer you some special lemonade.  However, they are private people and you are discouraged from just wandering up to their home unless introduced.
Manjack Cay Ocean Beach

Anyway, I spent a week there on anchor wandering to the beaches and meeting people and generally hanging out.  It's a very social environment - every Sunday afternoon there's a little get together on the public beach.  You bring a drink and some food to share and as many stories as you can remember.  What I found, sometimes uncomfortably, is what a complete newbie I am at this.  But everyone was kind, full of good advice, and welcoming.  Fortunately I wasn't the only newbie, so there's that.

Ben on the helm
After a week or so it was time to return to Green Turtle.  So up anchor and away I went to my spot on the dock.  One evening at Pineapples I met Ben, Kristin, and Michelle from Detroit.  They had decided to take a week off and rent a house on Green Turtle and were looking for adventures.  So during eating and drinking I offered to take them sailing the next day.  Excitement ensued.

Kristen reading
The next day they met me at Pelican and off we went in a nice 15kt breeze - sailing up to Manjack again where we anchored, had some beer and stuff, went swimming, took pictures and so forth until we sailed back.  The only fly in the ointment was running a little bit aground leaving the harbor.  More annoying than anything else.  

Swimming in Manjack 
We got back at dark and they all hopped off for showers, I suppose.  The nice thing is having guests aboard who know how to sail and aren't afraid of taking the helm or doing anything else.  Ben's a racer and Michelle crews with him.  Kristin was on holiday.

The next day we met again around lunch - all hopped into my dinghy and went over to the Leeward Yacht Club for lunch and drinks.  Well, sir, the day went downhill from there.  Somehow we managed to meet later for dinner at their rental place for pizza and much imbibing.  All in all, a pretty good day.

Another day passed, I figured they'd had enough of me so I went a wandering again.  At Pineapples once again I am greeted by the trio - after some snacks and drinks we all went off to Sundowner's in New Plymouth for pizza and more drinks.  If you're in Green Turtle Cay you should go once. That's enough.

Another place in New Plymouth that cruisers meet on Fridays is Plymouth Rock Liquors and Cafe.  You can have breakfast in a liquor store, which is perfect if you're an alcoholic.  But seriously, the food's good and the prices are pretty fair as well.  Friday nights - remember that.

Some other places to eat in New Plymouth include Harvey's Grill - good food, fancy prices.  Like a real restaurant.  Usually they have fresh fish specials.  Then there's Two Shorty's - it's a take out that you can get a lunch for $5!  Or $10 for the large size.  Brilliant.  Good food.  Kevin's sisters run it. Also there's The Wrecking Tree.  Odd name, decent food, worth the trip.  There's Macintosh's that does breakfast and it's good.  They're also a bakery.  Good cookies. Never made it for dinner.  Or lunch, for that matter.  I'm sure I'm forgetting someplace.

My Pig
After Ben & Group left I spent some time getting ready for the trip around Whale Cay.  The dreaded passage to the Southern Abacos.  I left the dock and headed the two miles or so to Noname Cay where there are wild pigs.  Apparently, a must see.  So I saw.  This is my pig.  Everyone else on the beach was being chased by the big ones and squealing with the little ones.  This one was enough for me.  Bread fed,  box checked.

The next day dawned brilliant and calm so I weighed anchor and headed to the Whale Cay cut.  After all the hubbub about it it was a bit disappointing.  Don't get me wrong.  In a northeast wind it would be treacherous but there were 4 foot swells and no waves to speak of.  Also, the cut is short and the distance in the ocean is only like 2 nautical miles.  The channel back to the southern Abacos is wide and deep as it was dredged for cruise ships which no longer stop here.

There are rumors that the channel markers which were steel poles remained but below the waterline because of storms and corrosion.  I sailed down the edge of the channel looking for them and didn't see them.  I think they were removed when a vessel got holed on one and sank.  There are still poles around the turning basin, though, which are still visible but a little worse for wear. 

I decided to anchor off Fish Cay which is an archipelago of about six islands.  Because it was calm it was ok.  The eastern side is deep but not good holding ground - good enough for the weather or for winds out of the west.

Anyway, that's the northern Abacos.  Next up, the southern Abacos from Great Guana Cay to Treasure Cay, Archer Cay, Marsh Harbor, Elbow and Lynyard Cays, Tilloo Cay and so forth.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ft. Lauderdale to Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

First, let me say this:  My stay in Ft. Lauderdale was at my dear friends' Laura and Cory's house.  They put me up, put up with me, and they were free and easy with invaluable advice.  Their house is way up the New River and it's calm there and generally much cooler than downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

I've known Laura for nearly 40 years - we've sailed together on each other's boats, sailed together on our own boats, raced on each other's boats, and when Cory came into her life, deliveries together.  They are two of the very few people I trust offshore.  They deserve a huge portion of credit for this trip to the Bahamas for their unflagging encouragement and support.

My friend, John, flew into Ft. Lauderdale Friday, January 19th.  We Ubered into town for dinner at The Downtowner restaurant on the south shore of the New River.  It was a pleasant dinner and we got back to Pelican at a very reasonable hour.  A sleeping pill later we were out like lights.

Saturday promised to have good weather for 24 hours or more and that meant we'd be leaving Saturday night.  The plan was to go down the New River, get a pump out of the holding tank (which, despite Florida's fervent desire to have people use the service is nearly impossible to get done).

Laura came with John and I, Cory and his friend Mark followed in Cory's Contender, a very nice center console.

As we left their dock I hit a bump in the mud.  No problem, power over it.  Easy peasy.  As we went down the New River at the Davie Blvd bridge I was having trouble managing Pelican - more than I should have had but I put it down to some goop on the prop that would eventually wash off.  So we continued down the river. 

Now, you need to know that the New River is not so much a river as it is a wide-ish creek that flows at up to 3 knots or so.  Lining the river is some very expensive boats leaving not a lot of room for vessels to pass.  Sure, more than you think but less than you may need.

By the time I got to the next bridge, the 7th Avenue bridge, I was having trouble keeping pointed down river when going slow.  At the Andrews Avenue bridge I had go to a dock to wait and after that I had a terrible time turning down river again.  I'm chalking it up to the current and Pelican's normal difficulty in low speed maneuvering.

Finally, I managed, with variously cursing and laughter from other boaters to get between Andrews Avenue and 3rd Avenue bridges tied up for a pump out.  After finding the dock master, I found I had stopped in the wrong place and had to continue down past the 3rd Avenue bridge.  It went downhill from there.

After struggling for 15 minutes to get Pelican pointing downstream for the 3rd Avenue bridge amongst a great deal of ridicule from other boaters about 'sail boaters' and so forth and not one offer to help or not crowd me when I was obviously in difficulty I got through the bridge and tied up again near the pumpout.

Well, unlike pumpout stations everywhere else, this one doesn't have the fitting.  Not even the rubber nozzle.  Really?  Apparently, it's a Florida thing.  You need your own fittings.  Anyway, after some brouhaha, we left for the 15th Street Fisheries to pick up fuel and to have dinner.   But on the way down I noticed a stronger vibration.  Not devastating but more than I remembered.

After a nice dinner, we took off for the Bahamas.  We were only making about 4 knots and the vibration, instead of getting better if it were just smootch on the prop, got worse.  Around midnight John and I came to the conclusion that someone needed to check the prop - we were in the Gulf Stream and if there was damage to the running gear we needed to go back.  If not, we needed to clear it and continue.

So I dragged out my light wetsuit, mask and waterproof flashlight and with John running safety lines for me to hold, I went overboard.

First, the water in the Gulf Stream is really nice.  If it weren't for the 2-4 foot waves it would be very pleasant.  Also, if it were daylight.  Anyway, I saw what looked like a party ribbon hanging off the prop shaft and reached under to get it.  Well, sir, it wasn't a party ribbon.  It was the weighted rim of a casting net, a small polypropylene line with several ounce weights every few inches., perhaps 6 feet long.

After I got that off,  there was still junk on the shaft but it was too rough to be diving and cutting it off so I got back into the boat and we got underway.  Clearing that weighted line off gave us an extra couple of knots.  Woohoo!  No vibration!  Yay!

John Brown on the Banks

From then on it was just standing watch and keeping dryish in building seas and winds.  Not quite the weather report.  But around 11:30 am, only one and a half hours late, which included the time we spent clearing the prop, we passed onto the Little Bahamas Bank headed for Great Sale Cay.

Me on the Banks
The temperature went up 10 degrees!  The waters were clear turquoise blue.  The evilness of the last 24 hours dissipated in the complete marveling of the beauty of the banks!  Cory had said you can just stop and anchor anywhere.  You can hear this.  But until you experience it you can't believe it.  But yes.  You're tired? No worries.  Stop.  Drop your anchor.  Put on your anchor light.  Go to sleep.  Easy as pie and so completely surprising and refreshing.

But we ran until about 6 pm when we got to Great Sale Cay and anchored down.  It was a spectacular night, brilliantly clear with a crescent moon and stars like most people never get to see.  After a nice dinner of spaghetti and salad we went to sleep, the sleep of the nearly dead.

Lynn had said when we talked during the crossing that I needed to make John a real breakfast underway.  Well, underway, in 4 to 6 foot head seas, I wasn't going to do that.  But on Sunday morning at Great Sale, it was all bacon and eggs and coffee.  It was excellent, if I may say so myself.  Task completed, Lynn!

What the prop looked like
John and I decided that it would be a really long day to get to New Plymouth so that we'd stop in Manjack Cay for the night and take it easy the next morning - swim and stuff, then go to Donny's Marina for checking in to the Bahamas.  This provided a spectacular opportunity to check Pelican's bottom and clear the rest of the junk from the prop.  So for a couple of hours, John and I swam and generally carried on.

After cleaning
One of the things that really surprised me was how clean Pelican was, even after being in the water for almost 4 months and sitting for two of them.  Just a little slime on the hull was about it.  There was no real reason to clean the bottom.

What came off
Diver Bob finishing up
Anyway, after that and a simple breakfast, we weighed anchor and headed to the Black Sound of Green Turtle Cay to Donny's Marina.  Donny was very nice to move some boats around for us so we could stay the night, but he needed the slip for the next day so after checking in, on Donny's advice, we put the dinghy together and headed for the Other Shore Yacht Club where Pinapples happens to be - a bar and grill which is right near the dock and has pretty good food and great views of New Plymouth and the sunsets.

Pelican at Donny's
There I talked to Kevin, the dockmaster, and arranged for a slip.  Since they don't take reservations he indicated that I just come on over and tie up and we'd go from there.  So to help Donny out and to have a 'home base' for the northern Abacos off we went.

The dock's not much, really, but there's water and electricity and the pilings are pretty sturdy and that's all I really need.  Pineapples is a great little bar and burger shack.  There's a saltwater pool, shade, a great view of New Plymouth and spectacular sunsets over Great Abaco Island. 

The Other Shore Yacht Club has the only fuel in the harbor (there's fuel in White Sound north of here) and water.  Because a blow out of the northeast and east was predicted for the next week, essentially, we took the inside of the dock.  Very comfortable.

That night we moved we had dinner at Pineapples. We met Jason who takes people out for fishing and snorkeling excursions.  Nothing doing but we had to go.  I had to try out my pole spear, we had to see the reef and the stingrays north of Manjack Cay.  So, rather than discussing this trip, please enjoy the following pictures and a video...

John Having A Loo

Fan coral
Me, not quite on the reef

Me.  Just that.

Well, that's it for now.   John's back home, I'm wandering around the island and taking all sorts of pictures!

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.