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.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Castle Harbor Marina to St. Michael's

While at Castle Harbor Marina (which, if you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend) and my guest, Lynn, was out doing work things I had the time to get my folding bike out and explore.
One of the tributaries the Cross Island Trail crosses

Not far from the marina is the Kent Cross Island Trail which goes, as you might surmise, from the west end of the island to the east, ending at a nature park near the Bay Bridge on the west and the Kent Narrows bridge on the other.  I'm guessing it's about 10 miles long or so.  It is beautiful mostly with sections rather near industrial sites.  But is flat and paved so I can manage it.  It's great for walking and riding.  A lovely way to spend one or more afternoons.

The weather has been warm and increasingly humid.  Apparently tropical storm Nate has been working its way towards the Chesapeake.  It's been sunny, but every day the cloud cover has been more dense.

Anyway, I've been reading about the Kent Narrows, how shallow, how fast the current, blah, blah, blah.  Not recommended for sail boats and so forth.  But going all the way around Kent Island to St. Michael's is a six hour trip.  No one of the marina staff really had any experience (power boaters) so they could just surmise it was passable. 

Lynn met a couple passing Pelican Sunday morning while I was indisposed and they indicated it was not only passable but a nice trip.  His brother-in-law had a six foot draft and regularly went that way.

So, there you have it.  We left at high tide at 8 am, got to the bridge for the 8:30 opening and passed with no depths less than 7.5 feet, even in the entry channel.  The only thing I can say is, go at high tide if you draw more than 5.5 feet.

The other thing is that the wind was out of the south pushing water up the bay and rivers so its effect was to reduce the current through the narrows.  The bridge tender was exceedingly nice and the transit was without problem as I had hoped.  It was my first bridge opening this trip.  Well for some 7 or 8 years, to be sure.  It's like falling off a bike - you never forget how to do it.

Under sail with Lynn at helm
The wind was out of the south, south west at 10-18 knots so once past Parsons Island south of the narrows we set sail towards the Chesapeake because we had time and there was wind.  Predicted 20-25 kt winds didn't arrive and we managed to sail to within a mile or so of St. Michael's.  It really was a beautiful day for that, and Lynn is a good sailor.  We worked really well together. Man, can she trim sails!

We arrived at St. Michael's around 1:30 or so and tied up at the T-head of G dock, right in the heart of the museum!  Wow!  It's like being kings or something.

Pelican At CMM G dock
On the next T-head is another Pelican who caused some confusion as we both came in at the same time.  Met them at the office and they're nice people.  He said that he'd never run into a situation like that with two Pelicans.  I have.

Today, Nate is passing over with gale warnings on the bay.  We're staying put and leaving early tomorrow for maybe Solomons Island or farther if we can make it.

It seems like all my pictures are cloudy and grey.  I'd like to take some sunny ones.  Maybe tomorrow!  Oh, wait.  Here's one:


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Finally, the Chesapeake!

Here I am at the Castle Harbor Marina on Kent Island, MD.  It's a lovely not-so-little marina that's well protected. It's really easy to get into with a jetty protected channel that reveals itself as you line up on it. 

On site there are two restaurants - a pub and a sushi place.  I can attest that the sushi place is both popular and good. 

But, you're asking, how did I get here?

You'll remember the engine issue.  I figured all the replacements would do the job, and truthfully, in calm waters the next afternoon I left to transit the C & D Canal.  Reverie had left earlier and indicated they'd anchor behind Reedy Island just south of the eastern canal entrance.

In calm water with little breeze, the engine ran fine - stumbled once or twice but nothing continuing.  Done and dusted, I thought.  After anchoring and puttering around for a while, it was bed time.   Sadly, because neither Reverie or I had dinghy or motor we couldn't get together for cocktails.  A sad moment, to be sure.

Turkey Point exiting C&D Canal
The next day, I left around 7:30 am to get the current, mostly, through the canal.  It turned west around 9 or so and off to the races!  I was anchored in Turner Creek on the south side of the Sassafras River below Ordinary Point (which really is very ordinary, but still, I'd think a better name could have been come up with.  I suppose there's a story somewhere.)  In theory, there was a place I could sneak into to tie up to and visit the park.  But too shallow. 

Anyway, anchor down, cocktail in hand, evening to enjoy.  But the interesting thing is that the engine ran faultlessly.  

The next morning, I headed in to anchor near Georgetown, MD to meet with an old friend, Jim Affleck.  His ferry is a rather powerful jet ski.  As he was occupied until lunch time we went off to the local place, Twinny's for some good, inexpensive food.  Apparently there was a cheaper place but they closed.  Given the town of Galena is literally 300 feet by 300 feet it's surprising there were two to begin with.

Anyway, we both ate a hearty lunch for $25 including tax and tip!  My kind of place.

The day continued with no small amount of vodka and various mixers, including my friend, Ken's, special drink - vodka, tonic, blueberries and lime.  Very refreshing on a warm day.  Dinner at The Granary right at Jim's marina. Not bad.  It was, I must say, a very pleasant day spent in good company.  Thanks, Jim!

Wednesday came and the plan was to end up at Castle Harbor Marina (remember that?) to meet another friend. 

Motoring down the Chesapeake all was going well until the engine started to die again.  There was a great deal of swearing.  Surprised?  Don't be.  While the engine is running sort of I took the cover off and see big air bubbles coming through the Racor filter.  It happens, apparently, when the fuel tank is half full (or empty depending on your bent).  I tried adding fuel to see if that helped.  No.  It didn't.

More swearing.  I'm basically drifting in the middle of the Chesapeake whilst trying to manage this issue.  There is nothing to do but take fuel from a 5 gallon jug and returning it there. The new fuel pump will pump 5 gallons out in less than an hour.  But it's enough to get to the marina and fuel up the main tank, which I do.

The afternoon and this morning (Thursday, October 5) are spent trying to find a leak - I removed the pickup (no leak) check the hose to the Racor.  Reseat the lid.  Run engine, no air leak.  So for now that's done.  I think there was a leak at the top of the tank but I can't explain it.  If not, I'll know in about 40 hours.

Well, more adventure to follow!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Good Judgement Comes From Experience...

Experience comes from bad judgement.  This is a truism.  Today, I gained good judgement in bucket loads.

My trip to Manhasset Bay was spectacular!  Wind on the beam, jib and jigger and flying along at 7 knots!  Beautiful day. 

I met, over the radio, Matt and Kim of Orca, a 48 ft ketch and it was the first contact from having the AIS - it is really something!  They continued on to City Island, knowing we'd meet in the morning for the tides.

 I arrived, got fuel, and settled down on a Manhasset Bay Yacht Club mooring arranged for me by my friend, former Commodore, Dan Brown.  What a guy!  Sadly, we couldn't connect.  On the way back, then.

Friday morning I woke up at 4:30 to make the East River currents in my favor out the Verrazzano Narrows and, in theory on to Sandy Hook to wait for weather.  But the reports weren't good.  So with help from my friend, Laura, I decided it was the day to go down the coast to Cape May to miss some awful weather.

Off I went - apparently Orca and another boat, Reverie, were behind me.  It took Orca until Atlantic City to pass.  Most of the trip was uneventful.  Sunny day, clear night, low winds, small seas.  Pelican was running well.  Unfortunately sailing wasn't an option.  But I got to listen to my podcasts, so there's that.

This trip was interesting for another reason:  contact with the outside world.  There was no place without service for phone or internet.  Facebook, sadly, was my watch mate in the dark hours of the night.  That's new, and maybe a little disturbing.

I arrived at Cape May Inlet at 2:30am - the wind was out of the south west so the entrance was pretty straight forward.  Note to others following in the night: The jetties stick out some distance from the lights marking their ends.  Give them a couple of hundred feet of berth.

The range lights at the head of the entrance are really helpful. Pay attention to them.

It took me about an hour to get through the canal.  It's not long but at night hard to see the marks and know the way.  Chart plotters are the cat's meow.  I would not have attempted the traverse without them. Even if it's only an app on your phone.  I recommend MX Mariner for Android.  It also connects to Active Captain.  You can also use Open CPN which could, in theory, connect to your electronics and do your autopiloting.  But that's another story.

As I exited the canal at the west end around 3:30, the wind was about 12 to 15 on the nose going up Delaware bay.  Not bad.  But by 4:30, it was `18-25, and by 5:00 gusting higher.  The waves were steep and short, perhaps 2-4 feet.  Very uncomfortable but completely do-able.  Pelican is pretty strong.

But then the engine started to sputter.  Then it wouldn't keep headway. So I unfurled the jib and fell off thinking I could sail to a shoal of 9-15 feet, drop the anchor, do the repairs, and be on my way.  This is where the bad judgement comes in.  You can't reasonably anchor in 2-4 foot seas, and worse, the bottom is hard.  Even an 80lb anchor and chain won't hold or grip, although it did slow me down some. 

Even with snubbers, the windlass took a real beating.  It cracked the fiberglass it's mounted on.  Now, I had to get the anchor up with little or no strain on the windlass. 

I got the engine to idle and let it bring me up to the anchor.  With patience, a great deal of swearing, and a lot of stress I got it up.  Now with hardly an engine I decided to retreat.  This was what should have been done first given the conditions.

When the poop hits the fan, go back.  Unless it's safe to stop.  Now I know the limits. 

It was a brilliant downwind sail back to the Cape May Canal - in fact I sailed halfway through it, only taking the sail in when a bridge was I was approaching a bridge.  Fortunately in the calm, the motor worked again and I got into Utsch's Marina safe and sound around 9:00am. 

Here's something:  They remembered me from my passage with Dan and had a gift bag for me.  That was very nice.  And they didn't laugh at my, um, docking.

As I came in, I got hailed by Reverie, with Donna and Ken, asking how I liked the marina.  They had anchored in the canal and were having trouble holding.  A little while later, they made a reservation and now we're off to dinner!


Anyway.  fuel filters changed, new fuel pump installed.  Engine runs.  Let's see what happens.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Now we're getting going!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity - installing AIS (MMSI 367373060 if you care), last minute shopping, loading of tools and storing of other stuff. 

I suspect I've taken too much. 

This morning, final fill of the water tanks, filling fuel and jerry cans (I carry 6 for an additional 180 miles of motoring), putting the last of everything either away or where it won't cause issues, and generally getting to go.

The plan is a shakedown to Manhassett Bay today (about 3 hours) and early bed time.  Tomorrow morning, up at 4, off to catch the ebb through the East River around 6 am, and off to either Sandy Hook, NJ if weather and waves are not in my favor or out to Cape May if it is.  About a 20 hour day or so. 

After that, it's all gravy until Beaufort, NC - the next offshore passage.

Sorry for this short entry but it's a start.