Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Charleston and the Engine Gets Quieter

View of Charleston Harbor from Ravenel Bridge

The Ravenel Bridge is a new replacement bridge in Charleston that I-17 runs over. It's one of those new concrete suspension bridges and it replaces a steel trestle bridge. Like most of Charleston, it's pedestrian and bike friendly with a path for both on the south side of the bridge. The view of the harbor is spectacular! Since I didn't really feel like working yesterday, I unfolded my bike and went for a ride.

From tView of Ravenel Bridge from the Parkhe Charleston Maritime Center to the park on the east side of the Ravenel Bridge and back is about 9 miles. The park on the east side consists of a 1/4 mile long pier with porch-swing type chairs, little shelters, and not a few fisherpeople. It's very pretty.

The ride up the west approach to the bridge is easy - not so much the eastern approach. I ended up walking most of that. Big surprise, huh? Anyway, I got to take the panorama above and you may enjoy examining it more closely.

When I left from Whiteside Creek a week ago, the windlass ceased to function while the anchor was still down. That really pissed me off, I can tell you. So Thursday the 19th, I decided to see what was wrong and fix it. Through troubleshooting, I found that my first thought was wrong - I thought it was a problem with the foot switches and corroded wiring or connectors. Alas, that wasn't it. That is easy to fix.

No, by calling a local motor repair shop, I figured out that the problem is that the brushes and commutator for the motor was scored and wouldn't let the motor start - when I removed it from the windlass, if I gave the shaft a bit of a twist and then energized it, the motor would run nicely. So off I went, motor in hand to Excel Apparatus Services, Inc - a $25.00 cab ride away - motor in hand.

After discussing the problem with the shop foreman, I thought we agreed he'd call me with an estimate to repair the motor. When I called the next day to find out the cost, it was a whopping $583.00 - and it had already been completed! A new one is $450.00 from Defenders! Even overnighting the motor from Connecticut would have resulted in a lower cost (think $583 plus three $25.00 trips - the cab driver, Darren, was kind enough to pick up the motor and return it for a one-way charge).

In case you were wondering - I had called several times during the day to find out the cost, and the foreman was never available.

Long story short, I got the motor back and installed it. It works fine. It better work for another 30 years! Lesson learned: Never give permission to repair a unit before you get an estimate.

Ok, well, the windlass works again - I can raise the anchor manually, but with an all chain rode and a 70 pound anchor, I'm not likely to do that too many times...

One of the quirks of a Pearson 424 is that to work on anything on the engine forward of the oil fill (forward on the engine being aft in the boat) you have to remove an engine cover, engine housing and the small portion of bulkhead above the engine. Otherwise there's just no way to work there.

The small bulkhead is screwed in with 4 longish screws and I expect in the last 30 years, it's been removed enough times that only one screw really holds - two were missing when I bought Pelican. Anyway, I had a brilliant idea: Use slide bolts to hold the bulkhead in, and then, to keep the engine noise down, put sound insulation on the back of the bulkhead.

So I did.

One of the issues with engine noise is that it will travel anywhere there is no insulation - that's not to say that a little isn't better than none - it is, but the more completely you enclose the engine compartment the quieter it will be. With that in mind, I took out the aforementioned bulkhead and insulated it. While I had it out, I installed the slide bolts and then reinstalled the bulkhead. I haven't insulated the inside of the doors as I'm thinking about the best way to do it.

While I had the stuff out and the tools and the vacuum cleaner and what-not, I figured I'd to the engine box, too - one side had fallen out a couple of months ago and I thought I'd replace that and the others, too. The hardest job is getting the old stuff off - really, it peels of rather easily but leaves a mess and sheds a mess, too. I sure am glad of my vacuum cleaner!

I used a wire brush and scraper to remove most of the remnants of the old foam - it had long since dried out and came off easily. All that was left was the adhesive which was still sticky. So I didn't bother sanding or using harsh chemicals to remove it. The more stick, the better!

Next, using the old panels as patterns, I cut the new panels from the sheets of insulation I had. It's 1" thick foam with a solid layer in the center. I'm not sure why it's silver except maybe to reflect heat. Also, it looks pretty. It's easy to cut with a straight-edge and a box knife or utility knife. Once it's cut, all you have to do is remove the backing and carefully put it in place. Smooth it down, and tape the edges with the special tape and presto! You're done!

It really is a satisfying project to do and even with the access panels not covered, the volume of sound from the engine in the cabin is reduced by a huge amount. I have some scraps left over and I may apply them to other portions of the engine compartment including those access panels to reduce the sound even further.

See you on the water, but more quietly!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Charleston, South Carolina

If you live on the east coast of the United States you'll be aware that the recent weather has been, in a word, crappy. On land, generally it means that you've been wearing a sweater and a rain coat. You'll, perhaps, spend some quality time with your honey or watching football or whatever.

If you're at sea (and considering the Intracoastal Waterway that's a very loose interpretation), then it wasn't so much fun.

From Georgetown I went to a little creek, Graham Creek. It was the beginning of the crappy weather. I was in the company of John and Cheryl of Leprechaun - friends of Pat who runs the Pearson 424 web site. As I was a bit ahead of them I checked out what, in good weather, would be a lovely anchorage, Awendaw Creek. It's wide and deep and very open except where there's marsh. On a calm night, it would be spectacular - there are trees that block the light pollution from a couple of houses on the AICW.

But as the weather was deteriorating I thought it was too open for comfort. So we toodled on down to Graham Creek which is surrounded by marsh and has good holding ground and depth. The skies were gray and the wind was fairly steady at 17-25kts. Fortunately, no rain.

Since John's dinghy was rather well tied on, I decided to use my kayak to get over to their boat for cocktail hour (let's face it, that's the reason we travel, right? Cocktails in exotic places?) Anyway, after a couple of very pleasant hours I looked back to Pelican and notices my ladder had washed away! I've never had that happen! I had a few choice words as I returned later and flopped onto the deck in a most ungraceful way.

The next morning as our schedules meant waiting, we decided to hippity hop down the AICW about 10 miles to Whiteside Creek. Whiteside Creek is a really spectacular creek surrounded by marsh. It's wide open to the sky and very well protected from the seas. But the weather was deteriorating quickly.

So as we arrived Tuesday November 10 in the morning about 11:30, I got a chance to kayak around for a while. Then it started to rain. And blow. By the time I got on the boat, it just wasn't worth kayaking over to Leprechaun. In fact, I brought the kayak aboard to avoid it blowing away or banging on the hull all night.

Because of the tidal currents in the creek, the boat would change directions, sort of, every six hours - just enough to make new or different halyards bang. As Tuesday became Wednesday the weather got worse - now in addition to rain and wind it got cold - the daily high was about 50 and that, my friends, is really uncomfortable. So no kayaking that day, either. The same for Thursday.

By the end of Thursday I was ready to shoot myself in the head with my flare gun. I had planned to stay there until Saturday and get a slip in the Charleston Maritime Center for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't take it any more. When the wind dropped below 20 kts, I booked for Charleston, about three hours away.

Interestingly, the AICW exits into Charleston Harbor with a well marked channel. Well marked but not right - it didn't take long to go from 12 feet in depth to 3. When accessing the AICW, make sure you stand off the point and keep R 130 50 yards to starboard. Fortunately, it's all mud.

Anyway, now that I look at the paper chart I see the issue. It wasn't so clear on the chartplotter. That's a lesson for me, I guess.

There's a heck of a current that runs through the Charleston Maritime Center. Most people enter and leave on slack tide. Not me, though. Oh, no, I'm entering at max ebb with the wind gusting to 30 on the nose. Perfect. With a great deal of help from the dock guys I got tied up.

Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SCThe Maritime Center is a really nice marina - small, well tended, and the people are super nice. Those are some of the things that makes a marina worth visiting. They have free washer and dryer, reasonable electricity, weekly, biweekly and monthly rates, honor Boat U.S. cards and are literally three blocks from the old city. There is a big grocery store nearby (2.5 blocks) and in the main part of Charleston, a 15 minute walk, there are a bazillion restaurants.

I don't know if it's easier to get to marinas on the south side of the peninsula, but this one is worth the effort. It's also the least expensive of any of the marinas on Charleston proper. And it's the closest to the old town.

The downside, besides the current, is that it's a little rock-and-rolly. Wakes from everything come in here. I don't really care about that but there are some who do.

The historic portion of Charleston which essentially covers the whole of the peninsula is so history laden that I won't even go into it here. Read about it. Pretty much if anything was happening here in the United States or the Colonies, Charleston had something to do with it. From the Revolution to the unpleasantness between the North and South, Charleston was smack dab in the middle of the fray.

Market, Charleston, SCIn what I consider a great irony, there is on Market Street, several blocks of market booths, called City Market, where you can purchase any manner of jewelry, knick-knacks, geegaws, t-shirts and what-nots housed in long buildings of brick with trestle beamed roofs. The irony is that this set of buildings were, in former times, slave markets. Many of the people hawking aforementioned merchandise no doubt are descendants of those very same slaves.

U. S. Customs House, Charleston, SCJust down the street is one of the most impressive buildings in Charleston - the U.S. Customs House. I'm not sure what goes on there but you have to admit, this is one massive building. On the north side of Charleston are at least two major ports - one, apparently, for the export of BMWs (including Minis) that are built here in South Carolina. Just north of that past the marina is another container port. There's lots of big ship traffic here.

Waterfront Park, Charleston SCCentral Fountain, Waterfront Park, Charleston SCA stroll down East Bay Street brings one past lots of interesting buildings, most of which are either restaurants or boutiques of one type or another. Since I'm really not interested in those sorts of things, I continued down until I could go to the brilliantly named Waterfront Park. I like that as it describes both where and what it is. It's quite beautiful with a gravel path along the waterfront and a long tree lined promenade just a bit inland. There are two fountains both with signs indicating that there is no life guard on duty and that you shouldn't wade alone (along with the no spitting and so forth stuff).

North Fountain, Waterfront Park, Charleston SCI walked down East Bay street to South Battery where there's another lovely park, this one with cannons salvaged from all over the harbor. One even has a plaque that more or less indicates the heroic efforts of saving the gun found on Sullivan's Island where the salvors had no idea why it had been there. Once again, the essential honesty of Charleston shows through. What you see here is what you get.

Lower East Bay Street has some magnificent mansions. Most have regular tours. Each is different from the next and all are very well kept up. It's a very pretty street, I must say. The view over the harbor is spectacular, too.

Finally, I made my way up Meeting Street where there are meeting houses, churches, cemeteries, museums, and homes. It's tree lined and pleasantly shady - even while it was almost 80 yesterday the street was cool. It encourages, like most of Charleston, relaxed strolling. All in all, I'd say Charleston is a town you'd like to slow down in.

Well, I'll be leaving Friday for Dataw Island to see friends and provision for a longer trip to Brunswick, GA.

See you on the water!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Georgetown, South Carolina

Bald Head Island LightI love night sailing. The whole sky puts on a show and I could stare at the stars forever! With that in mind, I left Bald Head Island Marina about 5pm November 7, 2009. The idea was to get out to the Cape Fear safe water buoy before dark. The winds were light but enough to sail with and the current was with me so even with not much sailing speed I was still going 6 plus knots over the ground.

I thought this would be a good time to try the Monitor Windvane and so I did. Son of a gun, it really works - it's a pain when the wind is shifty or very light, but it works and it saves all sorts of power when sailing. I got a pattern for a paddle from Scanmar (the people who make the thing) for a ketch rig so the mizzen boom doesn't smash it, but I think I should have used the light air paddle - the one I made was just too touchy. In light air of less than 6 knots apparent it just doesn't keep a course very well. There's no surprise there because the manual mentions that.

But for longer passages with good wind (10+knots) this baby will save all sorts of power and will steer a darn good course! I'm impressed and quite thrilled.

I'd've taken a picture but it was pitch black by the time I got it all sorted out. Maybe one day I'll do it again and take said picture.

Most of the night was motor sailing. I was running just above an idle - not really good for a diesel but very easy on the fuel. Also, I didn't want to get to Winyah Bay Inlet before daylight so I had to keep to about 5 knots over the ground.

Shaft GeneratorEvery so often the wind would increase and we'd be moving right along so I could stop the engine and test the shaft generator. It works, but not below about 4.5knots. Then it uses power rather than generates it. The upside is that at a solid 5 knots it will supply enough power for the autopilot, all the instruments, and the refrigerator. I suspect that at 6 knots, it'll power the water maker, too. But with 10 knots of wind I couldn't test that.

The downside is that it's noisy. I'm not sure if it's the rotating gear or the stress on the v-drive, but I'm going to have to find that out. It could just be that the split pulley isn't balanced all that well. But as an experiment, I'll call it a success!

Georgetown Light North Island, Winyah Bay SCI arrived at the channel entrance exactly at 7:00am and started up the bay for Georgetown. True, it's like 6 miles out of my way going down the AICW, but I heard it was nice here and I needed fuel anyway. So I stopped at Boat Shed Marina for the evening, putting the boat away and taking on fuel and water. I decided to have a bit of a walk in town and maybe grab some lunch.

Ok, Georgetown is guarded from boaters approaching from the south by the stench from the paper plant. Apparently, the two big employers here are International Paper and a steel mill. The paper plant emits a foul odor that travels at least 10 miles over Winyah Bay. But once past the foul plume, Georgetown is a very pretty town. The waterfront contains a mixture of working and pleasure vessels with a large proportion developed with a boardwalk. It's lovely to walk there.

Front Street, Georgetown, SCThe main street, Front Street, has a theater and several restaurants and touristy stores as well as a large department store. It is truly like Main Street USA - the kind of boulevard that we pine for now. It is nostalgia made real. It's maybe three New York avenue blocks long. Because it's Sunday most of the shops are closed - but a few of the restaurants are open. Now, I'll do fru-fru eating every so often (less often now while I have no job), and with that in mind, I was looking for a good place to eat.

Aunney's of Georgetown, SCWay at the far end of town is Aunney's (pronounced onnies , like Donnie's without the 'D'). If you like country food and plenty of it go there. On Sunday they have a limited menu, but not that limited - I had fried chicken, collard greens, mac & cheese, a piece of cornbread, rice, and iced tea for $11.00 - and it was only that because I had all white meat ($1.00 extra - I was feeling expansive). All the women there are super nice and if you like good down-home cooking and good conversation this is the place.

Kindle of Aunney's, Georgetown, SCKindle (yes, like the reading device) was mostly my server. But no matter who ends up serving you, you'll enjoy it and have a darn good meal. You won't leave hungry. I only wish I could have had some of their home-made desert! Mmmmm. Highly recommended! Super friendly!

East Front Street, Georgetown, SCThe east end of Front Street is tree lined and the trees are gorgeous! This is what tree lined streets should look like!

If you're traveling by Georgetown on your way through the ICW, you should stop and set a spell.

See you on the water where I'll meet some new friends tomorrow at an anchorage!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Two Truly Cool Places

'Sailing' down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) is a dull as dull can be. True, there's some spectacular scenery, but when you get right down to it, it's a slog. Get up, get going, decide on an anchorage or marina, stop, go to bed. Repeat as necessary until you get somewhere interesting.

Having said that, I've looked to stop in marinas that are sort of off the beaten path with good rates or good scenery or both.

When I was getting to Wrightsville, NC for a meeting (also a catching up with friends, doing laundry and looking for an oil pressure gauge), I decided that rather than wait an hour for the Surf City swing bridge, I'd stop at the Beach House Marina. The dockmaster is Earl and the place is clean, very friendly, and at $1.25/ft including electricity a true bargain. Highly recommended.

Surf City, NC is quite a place, too - there's a really nice park that straddles the east coast of the AICW and has long wooden walks suspended over swamps - very pretty. They are clearly new-ish.

Contained in Surf City within easy walking from the marina is everything you could want including an IGA, a slew of restaurants (Daddy Mac's is pretty good - and eating on the deck overlooking the Atlantic is pretty special). There's a little breakfast nook, too, that is dirt cheap - a full breakfast 2 eggs, toast, home fries, coffee and bacon is like $4.99. Can you beat that? I submit not.

The downside to these places is that smoking is allowed in them. Yech!

Ok, so after spending the next day with friends and business discussions and eating and laundry, I got Pelican ready to leave for the 8 am Surf City Bridge opening and promptly ran aground. Fortunately, it was only for a minute. As someone once said, there are two types of sailors on the AICW - those who run aground and those who lie.

So, after a stultifying day, I'm at Bald Head Island Marina. This is a little hole in Bald Head Island across from Wilmington, NC and at the entrance to the Cape Fear inlet. This is a cute little marina on a very exclusive island. There are no cars, just golf carts. It's well manicured. There's a restaurant (Eb & Flo's) that in the season provides conch fritters that I'm told are better than you can get in the Bahamas. Sadly, the season is over and so I can't get any. Feh. Also, if there's a slip that's the farthest from the bright center of activity here on the island, I'm in it.

The winter montly rates here, including electricity, are very reasonable! Hmmm, well, I'm just sayin' here.

Why am I here? Because tomorrow at 5-ish or so I'm leaving for an overnight sail to Winyah inlet for Georgetown, NC. I may spend a couple of days there before going to Charleston. But the point is to have an overnight sail straight away and arrive in daylight.

The weather is supposed to be very nice, if cold. Tonight it's supposed to get to 38 degrees! Eww - I left Connecticut to get out of that crap! Still, Saturday night is supposed to be awesomely clear so I'll be on either autopilot or Monitor Windvane laying on the deck watching the incredible stars! But I'll also be watching.

I hope also to be able, finally, to test the shaft generator. I'm hoping there's enough wind to sail but not so much I'm terrified. I guess that's pretty much what all sailors want...

See you on the water! If I don't, though, steer clear - I'm stargazing!