Saturday, October 31, 2009

Engineering a Solution

I'm sure my windlass has not been serviced since I purchased Pelican and given human nature, probably not since it was installed. One of the major service items is to change the oil in the gear case. But it takes two men and a boy to get the darn thing out - and that's what's required to change the oil.

The measure of oil is that it is halfway up the sight glass. Since I couldn't even see the level either because it was too low or because the glass was scuzzed up, I wanted to refresh it but without dropping the motor and gear housing. Both tasks are onerous.

So I had a brilliant idea - namely, drill and tap a hole right in the middle of the sight glass. To drain the oil, remove the sight glass and let drain. I used a syringe to make sure all the oil was out. Then I put the sight glass back in, filled through the newly drilled and tapped hole in the center until the level was just higher than the hole with the syringe and finally, put the bolt back in the hole before it all leaks out - but even if it does leak out, it will leak to just a tiny bit below the optimum level.

The bolt is wrapped with teflon tape that keeps it from leaking, binding, and rotating out by itself. It is only finger tight so there's no strain on the plastic sight glass.

Now all that remains to be seen is what happens when I run the unit with the anchor on it. I expect nothing special besides the anchor going up and down.

You would think that Maxwell would have put a drain and fill plug on the gear case. There is room and it would make maintenance far more palatable.

See you on the water!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Beaufort, North Carolina

Beaufort. BO-Fort. I am not much into shopping boutique stores. I like architecture but I really detest cute. So first, here are some pictures of Beaufort from the boat - this is the town's main waterfront area. The left picture is the Maritime Museum and the right is the Beaufort Town Docks - a very nice place to dock and the people are pretty nice, too. But that's not what I'm on about here today.

You all have seen an historic town. Beaufort looks just like that. To its credit, it has a really good and really cheap diner like place that you can get stuffed for breakfast for around $7.00 and that includes coffee and a tip. They also have a very good and very expensive restaurant called "The Grocery" where if you're hungry and feeling flush, it's a good place to go. Then, there's the Back Street Bar. More on that later in this journey, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

This being near Halloween I thought what I'd talk about is one of the best graveyards I've ever seen. Sure, we have pretty good ones there, but on this side of the Atlantic, if you're thinking scary thoughts about a scary cemetery you are very likely thinking of this one or one so similar that it doesn't matter.

The last time I saw a cemetery anywhere like this was in England. I have to say, though, that I'd be pretty apprehensive to be here on any given moonless night.

This graveyard also contains an area where the casualties of an Indian war in 1722 happened - there are no markers left, but there is a little sign.

I find the graves to be really interesting, if only for their construction. There are a few WWII graves but most of them date to the 1860's and earlier. I'll leave you to contemplate the pictures at least for tomorrow night. You can bet I won't be there.

Well, someone I've wanted to meet since I got involved with the Pearson 424 organization is one Tor Pinney - to say he's sailed a great deal would be vast understatement. He's written a book about preparing a boat for offshore work and he regularly submits (and gets published) articles in Cruising World and other magazines.

Well, as I was putting Pelican to bed upon arriving here a man motored up in his dinghy and it was none other than Tor - we've been having discussions on the board for at least two years. As some of the other members were to meet at the Annapolis Boat Show, he indicated "none of look like we expect." He, of course, is right - we make pictures of strangers in our mind and are almost always surprised at what we see when we meet. I must say, my picture was of a great man with a beard and flaming red hair. I suspect I've read too many comics.

But that he doesn't match that image is not important - he's a terrific guy, knowledgable and experienced, and more than that, willing to share his knowledge. One of the good people in the world, I have to say.

Anyway, he's playing in town Saturday night so I'll pop over for that.

I had a bit of a scare with the dinghy - yesterday in town I came back and two of the chambers were partially deflated. I thought maybe someone was messing with me. I limped back to the boat and pumped them up and they stayed inflated all night. But in the morning I popped over to Tor's boat (Silver Heels) and as I was going one tube kept deflating. "Crap!", I thought to myself, "I have to fix that!"

Once again I limped back to the boat and hauled the engine off, attached the spinnaker halyard to the lifting harness and heaved the whole thing on deck. Using soapy water I sprayed everywhere - I couldn't find a leak -except as Tor pointed out, probably one of the fill valves. Well, there you have it, tightened the fill valve fitting and put the whole thing back in the water and away I went.

Before I left from Stamford, I purchased a Citizen folding bike (the Gotham model with fenders). It is the least expensive folding bike I've seen and it fits under the table, weighs like 20lbs, and rides pretty nicely. It's an all aluminum frame with standard parts. I took it out for a spin today, mostly to see how it does in the dinghy and the issues with loading and unloading it. (There are none).

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Right now it's almost cocktail hour and I thought I'd pop over to town for a bit of a happy hour.

See ya on the water!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An evening at Broad Creek

I know I'm like two days behind. Yesterday was one very long day and today much shorter with a sweet landing.

I left from Coinjock yesterday about 7:30am. There were people to help on the dock so the job was easy. It turns out that you need your up-current end shoved of into the current and nature does the rest. The current through Coinjock must have been running the day before when I arrived somewhere near 4 knots! By the time I turned around to land I was a half mile down the canal!

But I digress - also, since I had dinner at Crabbies I can tell you this: the crab chowder is marvelous. The stuffed flounder was way over cooked. There wasn't enough tartar sauce in the restaurant to cover that baby.

I digressed again, didn't I?

Well just a short while east the canal opened up into the North River which leads to the Currituck Sound out to the Albemarle. Some friends I had met, Tom and Charlene on their Krogen 39 (Forever 39) were overtaking me as I was attaching the staysail halyard - and trying to look all salty, I walked to the mast and gave the halyard a great heave only to have it become unshackled and sail up to the spreaders.

Nonchalantly, I walked back to the cockpit and unfurled the jib. Needless to say there was a good deal of swearing going on - I managed to get the sail under control and off we went at about 7 knots! Woohoo! Shut the engine and sailed! Can you believe it?

Raised the mizzen and all went spectacularly. Pelican was in her glory, I'll tell you - she motors pretty ok, I guess, but when the wind's 20 kts or so, man she GOES!

I was told that the two sounds would be horrendous. I don't know where these people go, but at 2-3 feet, they were totally manageable and not at all rough, really. I mean Pelican handled them with aplomb.

We ended up motor sailing down the Albemarle because I had to make it to the end of the Pungo Canal before dark. Well, not really, but I wanted to. To say that the Pungo Canal is dull would be to be wildly exaggerating. It would be hyperbole. The charts say it's got a cypress swamp on one side. Sadly, the swamp is dying. Boats leaving large wakes wash the soil from the roots with the result that the trees eventually topple. The northern edge is already dead from something or other and the trees nearest the canal are dying. Come see it now before it's gone. Don't leave a big wake.

Anyway, I ended up at the end of the Pungo River Canal in a terrific anchorage just to the right of the last buoy. For those of you following me, you know were I was. The night was cold, drizzly, and damp with a pretty strong wind from the north. All snuggled up in my bed with lots of pillows I slept the sleep of, well, the sleepy. It was marvelous.

This morning, however, turned out to be a bit less sanguine (incidentally, I love the word 'sanguine' - it's from the French word for 'blood' (to parenthesize parenthesis - so is 'exsanguination' another terrific word but hardly useful for this blog) ) . As I left the anchorage, the fanbelt that runs the alternator and the fresh water pump on the engine broke. After much hopping about swearing, I had to anchor again and rip the boat apart to change the belt. This took about an hour.

Well, then I was off again! Today I made it to River Dunes, in Broad Creek on the Neuse River. It sounds like a gambling casino but it's not. It's a lovely water community in a place that you'd never expect. Broad Creek is a little, shallow creek with a pretty good anchorage. When you motor up it there's a little channel off to the port that you would think goes to someone's home. But a little way in, it turns into a masonry lined channel that opens up into a large basin with a marina inside! You could not be more surprised than if you walked into a dumpy looking restaurant door and inside was this huge gourmet dining establishment! (Incidentally, I had another surprising thing to compare this to but it is a family blog after all.)

It's a most modern facility and I got to stay on a 'T' dock for $1.25/foot for the night! Can you believe that? That's like when I started sailing! It's almost cheaper with electricity ($5.00) than the friggin' moorings at Sagamor Yacht Club. I mean, really!

So that's today's adventures. More when I get to Beaufort, NC where I pick up a mooring I've rented for a month for next to nothing.

Frankly, this cruising life has started out totally ok!

See you all on the water!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Resting at Great Bridge VA

Well, we made it to Great Bridge, VA Friday afternoon around 1:30ish. We were very happy to get into the Atlantic Yacht Basin that Cory has been to many times, and recently I have with him. It's a few hundred yards east of the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge on the south shore of the ICW. Because it's in a fresh water section of the ICW, there's no tide to speak of unless there's a strong wind out of the east that piles up water here.

This place is a full service yard - they have any number of large and small boats in various stages of repair at any one time. Lest that give you the impression they work willy-nilly let me disabuse you of that notion. Every work site is clean and well maintained. The yard people wear their safety gear and seem, to me anyway, to work a good day's work. I'm impressed.

Their marine store isn't like any other. Because of the work they do, it's well stocked with things you need and need badly. There's no frippery there, I'll tell you what.

The dock masters are knowledgeable and really helpful.

As you know if you've been following my SPOT information, we started out around 9:30am Wednesday from Great Kills Yacht Club. There appeared to be wind filling in from a direction we could sail in - we were headed out to the Sandy Hook Channel. The breeze was light and as it turns out we couldn't sail. We didn't find that out until all the sails were raised, though.

So, essentially, you leave the Sandy Hook Channel when you can clear the shoals and make a right any stay on that course until you hit (figuratively) Cape Charles at the entrance to the Chesapeake.

Because the weather for Thursday was going to be 20kts out of the southwest (in other words, right on the nose) we decided to run a little closer to the coast. In any case, we were making good time until Thursday around noonish when the wind settled in right on the nose (as predicted). We were 20 miles out with seas building to an uncomfortable 2 - 6 foot chop and pounding into it. Pelican does not like to motor into that. Neither does her owner.

We worked our way west with the staysail and mizzen until we were in around 35 feet of water just south of the Delaware River. From there you can almost make a beeline to Cape Charles.

The engine was behaving beautifully until we were about an hour from Cape Charles at about three in the morning. Then it stopped. Plenty of fuel. Pump working, but air in the Racor. Long story short, the original rubber fuel line had a gotten a split in it and we were able to get a good connection to the fuel pump and get the engine running again after about an hour and a half.

As we rounded Cape Charles the wind died (because we could have sailed into the Chesapeake otherwise) and we got to Norfolk about 7:30am. We went through the assorted bridges until we got nearly to Great Bridge. There the Dominion Boulevard Bridge (aka 'Steel Bridge') only opens on the hour. Of course we were an half hour early (we had just missed the opening). So we tied up to a dock nearby to wait.

After the Steel Bridge, there is the Great Bridge Lock which opens when? On the hour on the half hour. Fortunately they were opening the gates as we came up and we got in right away. Actually, we were looking to tie up to wait and wanted to see what the signs said at the entrance so motored up there. That's when we noticed it was opening. If you were in a boat in that lock opening - really, we're sorry.

Ok, well, the lock takes a half hour to cycle and then there's the Great Bridge Bascule bridge which opens when? On the hour. If you're really, really lucky you can catch them all and make it through in an hour. If you're not, it's two hours. We weren't.

So Friday at the Atlantic Yacht Basin we really didn't do anything - had some wine and cheese and went fairly early to the Mexican restaurant across the road - El Toro Loco. It was awful. Not at all recommended. We forced ourselves to stay up until 8:00pm. Woohoo! what a wild bunch we are!

This morning, Saturday, we all got up early, had a cup of coffee and Cory and Jim were on their way home via taxi and train (Amtrak from Newport News). I did laundry, changed the oil in the engine, and replaced the faulty fuel hose which I had purchased Friday afternoon in the hopes of dealing with it then.

After that, I moved across the canal to a free dock and am here now.

On the dock with me is a DeFever 53 owned by Karen and Jeffrey Siegel who happen to own and run a site ActiveCaptain, an interactive cruising guidebook. This is a great site, too, that is constantly being updated by cruisers! It's free but you have to register. I just started looking at it and I can totally see its utility. I think I'll be on that site pretty often!

It's such a good site, you'll see it on my sidebar.

Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Coinjock to have a 32oz. steak. No, not really, but to gather myself together to go down the Albemarle Sound. Hopefully the bridge will open on the Alligator River when I need it to...

So there you have it! The first exciting days of what promises to be an exciting trip!

See you on the 'ditch'!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day One - Great Kills, Staten Island, NY

Here I am at the Great Kills Yacht Club in a small harbor on the southeast corner of Staten Island - I left Stamford CT this morning at 7:45 and had current with me all day except for about a 20 minute period through Hell Gate.

It was a beautiful day! Partly cloudy and in the high 40's. It could only have been better if the wind wasn't on the nose all day! But that's sailing in Long Island Sound and New York Harbor!

Still, a very pleasant day all in all. New York Harbor was busy as usual. Of course I had to take a picture of 'The Lady'.

Also, I'm testing my video - clearly I need to work on that bit - a short one is 185Mb and that's too much. Maybe I'll figure it out by Norfolk!

Tomorrow will be our trip offshore - Cory and Jim will be with me. We should arrive at Norfolk on Friday morning and make it to Coinjock.

While I was here, I met the owners of Roving Seas, an Island Gypsy 44 that I passed in the East River between the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges. They had hailed me earlier and we'd discussed our plans so I knew they'd be in Great Kills. It's so seldom anyone gets a picture of their boat underway, I thought I'd take a couple and email it to them.

Brian and Jan could not be nicer. We had a bit of discussion and wine on Roving Seas before they had to head off to meet their son for dinner. They also turned me on to a great site, Cruiser's Net. It's all about cruisers helping each other out. While I was waiting for Cory and Jim the next morning I helped them off the dock.

Their goal is Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, too, so I hope to see them there!

See you on the ocean!

Monday, October 19, 2009

And Here We Go!

Today is Monday, October 19th. This is the day before I leave for a winter of cruising down the east coast and to the Bahamas. Everyone here at the marina and all my landbound friends have been so incredibly wonderful and supportive of this trip.

This, of course, causes some conflicting feelings - How could I leave my incredible friends? How could I not, knowing how they support the journey?

I'll be leaving around 8:00 am tomorrow morning to catch high tide at Hell Gate, East River, New York. The last couple of days have been cold, miserable, rainy, and windy. This morning there was a layer of ice on the dock! I'm getting out of here not a moment too soon!

My first stop is Staten Island, NY where I'll be staying at the Great Kills Yacht Club in Great Kills Harbor on the south east side of the island. Although the entire trip will only be about eight or nine hours it will be, I hope, a bit of a shakedown of the new stuff like the shaft driven generator (if it works, there will be a post about it next) and the Monitor Windvane steering system that has been rigged for the trip.

The other day while I was stocking up at BJ's, I found a Panasonic SDR digital camcorder that's just a bit thicker than an iPhone and uses SDHC memory cards for about $199. There are higher definition units like the Flip Mino or Mino Ultra. They are small, easily downloaded but limited in how much video they store before you have to download them or erase things.

The Panasonic SDR-SW20, with standard NTSC video, has several great advantages - one, it's water resistant to 1.5 meters (almost 4 feet), it is dust resistant, it is shock resistant to drops up to 1.5 meters and finally, it uses SDHC cards that can carry up to 16GB of storage for about three hours of the highest quality video. For 8GB cards, about an hour and 40 minutes. At standard quality, it's much longer.

The fact that it's waterproof is a real plus because I can use it while sailing (expect some videos tomorrow - not great ones, but some nonetheless). Also, since it's hard to get a picture of rough weather that really looks like it feels, I hope to use it in situations where you shouldn't take a regular camera.

The other attribute that is important to me is the fact that I can change a card when full and continue recording without downloading. Although it may never happen that I need to, it is certainly a nice option.

This afternoon I'll be hosting a quiet wine and cheese party for friends at the marina - nothing terrific, just a little get-together. They won't be awake when I leave tomorrow so I'll just be slipping away into the morning...

Today is a wonderfully sunny day - with winds from the north at 10 to 20kts. If the boat isn't ready by now, it will never be. So today is pretty much a waiting day - I'll nap and straighten up things and so forth. After the little party I'll be heading off to bed. I'm so excited about leaving that I'm fairly shaking to get away!

In the grand scheme of sailing, this is a fairly calm adventure. I'm not rounding Cape Horn or even Cape of Good Hope. It's just that I'm going for a long distance (to me) and to new (to me) places and seeing new (to me) friends and visiting old friends.

If you'd like to follow me on Google Maps, I have a SPOT Personal Tracker. This little device has several functions that allow friends to see where you are. You can follow me by using this link - kindly set up by my 424 buddy Pat. The real URL is ugly.

About the SPOT device: it is meant to be a personal safety device - not to replace an EPIRB that an oceangoing boat needs, but since it's based on the Globalstar satellite system, the coverage is pretty good everywhere except near the poles. I don't plan on going to either pole as I've heard they're really cold. Maybe in a few years after global warming takes effect. (I'm joking here - don't go all postal!)

Operating SPOT once set up and services purchased on the site is really simple - you can see from the picture that there are four buttons. The On/Off button is self-explanatory. We've all seen and used them. Of the other three, one is 'Ok' which if pressed for two seconds sends an email with a message that I'm Ok, and you can see where I am using a link to Google Maps. Holding the button for 4 or more seconds starts tracking so that every 10 minutes a position is marked on the map and you can follow it at the link above.

The next button is a personal 'help' button. This one sends a customized message that I'll follow up with later - essentially it's for when I'm stuck but don't really need the Coast Guard or Marines to get me. It will actually ask for lawyers, guns, and money - facetiously, perhaps, but I'm in a bind.

The last button is '911'. When you purchase the service, this bad boy will get the Globalstar monitoring station to call the authorities to help you - obviously, on the water, it will be the Coast Guard or the Navy or the Marines. On land, the police or rescue people. You press this button, you'd better need serious help or you'll be paying for the efforts. Fortunately, the button is recessed and you need to hold it for 10 seconds or so. There is no 'test' function. You press it, you're going to be visited by some highly trained and very serious people. Perhaps they'll even be heavily armed.

I'm also maintaining a maillist that I'll post to (and my 'Ok' and 'Help' messages go to). All you have to do is send an email from your account to - you don't need a subject or message as they're ignored. Then you'll join the 10's of people following me!

Well, that's about it for today. I hope to see you on the water!