Some Things We’re Thankful For

It’s 1°C this morning. We’re thankful for unlimited shore power, and two 1500W electric heaters plus a propane heater. Being at a dock is expensive, but sometimes the money’s well spent.

We’re thankful that I figured out how to operate the excess fuel cold start device on the Mr. Lehman’s injector pump. Page 15 has cryptic advice on starting the engine when cold. 

Lehman Manual: "If engine fails to start within 5 seconds, release starting button."

Clearly, we’re not supped to crank more than five seconds. In Wrightsville, last week, I think I cranked for close to 30 seconds to get started. And in Mile Hammock, I think it took two rounds of 15-20 seconds. At the time, I didn’t understand the excess fuel device. Instead I cranked until he caught. It’s a lot of wear on the starter, plus the potential of long-term damage from overheating the starter.

Yesterday, when it was also 1°C, I experimented with the "excess fuel device". Wow! Amazing.

Lehman Manual: "The excess fuel device permits additional fuel to be supplied by the injection pump when starting engine in cold climates."

I had messed with this excess fuel/cold start thingy before; I wasn’t able to  figure out exactly how it worked. It’s mounted through the the fuel shutoff lever, but, that’s irrelevant to its operation. Ignore the lever it’s attached to.

After looking at the manual (again) it finally clicked into place.

It works like this.

  1. Climb out into the freezing cold cockpit and pull the throttle as far as it will go. I can’t get enough leverage to move it from below.
  2. Run back down to the freezing cold engine room and push the excess fuel button. It snaps into the fuel pump with an audible “ping.” 
  3. Push the throttle down to half-way. This can be done from the engine without too much sweating and straining.
  4. Run through the rest of the pre-start checks.
  5. Run up to the cockpit and enjoy an explosive start on the first crank.

Thankful.

Pre-start Checks

I’m thankful The Commodore insisted on a diesel engine class. And I’m thankful that Maverick organized exactly this class in Kilmarnock Virginia. One of the important lessons from that class is that something as bulky and over-engineered as an 80’s-vintage marine diesel engine doesn’t often fail catastrophically. There’s a lot of room for error, therefore, there’s usually going to be a slow degradation in performance as something wears away from abuse or neglect.

Lehman Engine

We were told to take notes. Come to understand Mr. Lehman’s irrascible moods. Determine what is “normal” so that you can spot the subtle indications of “not normal”. And they will start out as subtle.

Sighing. Eye-Rolling. Door-Slamming. “Fine, then.” “Whatever.” Those kinds of subtle.

I’m thankful for learning that. I keep a log book near the engine where I write down the following things during every engine pre-start check.

1. Date.

2. Battery Voltage Level. 

3. Engine Hours. I installed the engine hour meter in the engine room because the binnacle hour meter stopped worked. Actual hours are 2300+ whatever the engine room hour meter says. When I finally replace the tach in the binnacle, I’ll have to make an official placard for the engine room that says “Add 2300 hours”.

4. Pan State. There’s a pan under the engine that catches drops. What’s in there? Is it Dry or Wet? Is the fluid Oil, Coolant, or Raw Water? Yes, I have stuck my finger in to taste it. It’s no different from wine tasting; spit it out, don’t swallow it. Because of the pan, I’ve detected problems with the raw water pump. And of course, when the fuel line failed in the spring, the pan was full of diesel fuel. But the pan also detected the leak from the oil cooler earlier in the fall (Heat Exchangers Exchanged.)

5. Fuel State. The pressure on the vacuum gauge and my recollection of the fuel tank level. The fuel gauge in on the binnacle, so tank levels aren’t often right in the engine log. The vacuum pressure is important. As that inches up, it’s time to look at replacing a fuel filter. It’s not the absolute level, it’s the change and the rate of change that matter.

6. Coolant State. Mostly, it’s just two words to describe the overflow jug: “above add”, “at add”, “below add”.  Sometimes, I’ll add a pint of water. Last year, I was adding a pint of water a day. Then I replaced the main circulating pump. I’ve added a pint since I changed the heat exchangers.

7. Oil State. What’s the oil level on the dipstick? Also a two word entry: “above line”, “at line”, “x″ below line.” Down to about ⅜″ below the line is fine. Below ⅜″, it’s time to add a quart. When the oil cooler was leaking, of course, the oil levels were plummeting. As if oil and water in the pan wasn’t enough indication that things were failing.

Once the engine has been inspected, I can officially turn on the engine alarms, confident that something good will happen.

Also, outside the pre-start, I write down all the things I’ve done. Filter changes, part replacements, fuel, oil. All that kind of thing. That way, I can answer The Commodore’s question: “What have you changed since the last time it worked?” 

And I’m thankful for that question.

Today

We have to fix our flag. “Old Glory” is supposed to fly from the peak of the gaff on the aftermost mast. Lacking a gaff rig, the modern fallback is ⅔ of the way up the topping lift on the mizzen mast. 

That fitting failed in Schooner Creek during the hellacious thunderstorms. Causing us to run up on deck in the rain and 25 knot gusts to figure out what the hell just went wrong. It was the flag, flogging. We reeled her in and wrapped the flag halyard around something handy and ran back below.

I have to rig a messenger line and drop the topping lift to inspect where the little block and tackle used to be sewn to the line.

Our windlass doesn’t feel “right”. I suspect that the cold has thickened the grease to the point where there’s a perceptible difference. We don’t see anything leaking out onto the deck, so we’re sure that the grease is all in there. Another remote possibility is water intrusion thinning the grease. 

I’ve tightened one of the bolts that often works its way loose. I’ve tried injecting grease in the zerk fitting. If it gets warm enough to work on deck today, I have to bring some wrenches forward and see if there are any other loose bolts that I can tighten. 

We’ve had it apart once. It’s full — full! — of thick grease. And it will be the worst kind of waterproof gear-box grease that can’t be washed off. We hate the idea of  scooping out the grease to get a good look at the parts inside.

I messed with the deck wash down and bilge system for a while yesterday. It might be fixed. I’m thankful for tools and spares. 

Charleston by Thanksgiving

Started: ICW Mile 454 Long Creek 32°49.24′N 079°45.12′W

Docked: ICW Mile 464 Cooper River Marina 32°49.94′N 079°56.02′W

Log: 15.5 nm. Time 3½ hr. Engine 3½ hr.


Boom. [Drops the mic.]

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The Arthur Ravenel Junior Bridge

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Marsh People — Really. An RV on a Raft, Miles From Anything

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Pelicans

The bilge pump and deck wash down system is screwy. The windlass is showing signs of wear. But we’re here.

Long Creek

Started: ICW Mile 393 Schooner Creek 33°27.63′N 079°10.34′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 454 Long Creek 32°49.24′N 079°45.12′W

Log: 57.3 nm. Time 9½ hr. Engine 9½ hr.


We’re within sight of Charleston’s bridges and the loom of the city lights.

With luck, we’ll make Charleston by Thanksgiving. Tomorrow.

We could have stayed in Schooner Creek to avoid today's nasty headwind down Winyah Bay. But tomorrow, Thursday, promises to be bitterly cold. Who wants to drive the boat all day in near freezing temperatures?

The Commodore wanted to know exactly what wind speed and how long it would take to transit Winyah Bay. Based on that, she looked at some anchorages between the Santee Rivers and Charleston that looked promising. 

Her orders? Go while the going is good. Even if the wind was against us, it wouldn’t be against us all day. And it wasn’t going to be near freezing.

Exit Strategy

The Schooner Creek exit didn’t go as badly as I had envisioned. 

We were up at 05:00 breakfasted and ready for Nautical Dawn. Nautical dawn is 48 minutes prior to sunrise. Nautical dawn is defined as sun 12° below the horizon; at the sun’s pace of a 15° per hour, that’s 48 minutes before real sunup.

About 6:15 more or less, we started hauling up the anchor. I could make out the banks of the creek in the gloom. I drove looking at the depth gauge mostly: sticking to the deepest available water. 

No real problem. Whew. Not so bad a spot after all.

The Day’s Distance

Winyah Bay was pleasant. Winds 10-15. Still warmish, but raining on-and-off. Low clouds in long streaks from horizon to horizon. We had an ebb tide that pushed us along at 8.1 knots. 

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Even into the ICW, we caught good ebb tides running down into the inlets. Of course, the ebb was against us going “up” from the inlet, but we'd crest the little watershed and run back down the next one at a good pace.

The ICW was — well — the ICW. We ran aground near G37 outside McClellanville. The fairway is pushed way to the north side of the channel and the chart shows a shoal that’s not actually there. Essentially, you have to run down the mid-line between the previous mark and shore, not between shore and shore. And not based on the next mark which is too far away to be relevant.

There are other places between mile markers 430 and 450 where the fairway is hard to discern. We got in line behind another sailboat and followed them. They were in no particular hurry, so we kept our speed way down to match there’s. 

What good is it to go a little quicker and lose all the time getting off a mud bank?

Windy and Cold

As we chugged down the ditch, the wind steadily built. And built. And the temperatures dropped. And dropped. Arctic Cold. Blustery Conditions.

We had gusts over 30 throughout the afternoon. Not 30 knots of apparent wind: with us flying along at 7 knots the wind was really only 23. No. This was 30 knots for real blasting in over the beam. 30 knot winds are alarmingly powerful. We were happy to be hunkered down underneath the dodger.

We tried to imagine handling sails in that kind of wind. Dropping the main. Reefing the mizzen. Scary.

When we finally came into Long Creek — off Dewee’s Creek — off the ICW — in the marshes behind Isle of Palms — we were freezing. It was cold and getting colder. 

Time for hot cocoa with bourbon. And propane heaters. And wooly slippers. And fleece pants. Hot Soup with Biscuits.

Tomorrow, if we can get Mr. Lehman to start, we’re only 15 miles from Charleston. 3 hours, perhaps, depending on how well we can time the Ben Sawyer Memorial Bridge opening.

Schooner Creek — Not our best idea

Started: ICW Mile 384 Calabash Creek 33°52.41′N 078°34.19′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 393 Schooner Creek 33°27.63′N 079°10.34′W

Log: 56.2 nm. Time 8¾  hr. Engine 8¾ hr.


Tonight is thunderstorms and more thunderstorms until around midnight. Sort-of glad to be hunkered down in a creek. 

The day, was the pretty part of the upper Waccamaw river. The oxbows and cypress and jungle-like winding river. It’s perhaps the prettiest part of the trip.

Mr. Lehman earned another gold star ✪ for flawless service. A while ago (Alligator River) I suspected something was wrong with the fuel system. I didn’t want to blame the filters — they seemed good. I tried to blame the fuel lift pump. However, since changing the filter and bleeding the system in Wrightsville Beach, things have been so much better. 

Schooner creek is not the best. But it is a creek, none the less.

Tomorrow will have big winds will be coming from the south west, straight up Winyah bay. Into our face. 

Thursday, however, the wind will be from the north. Bringing arctic cold. Again. Perhaps -2°C as we try to exit the creek.

Which is better? Bashing into the wind tomorrow? Freezing on Thursday?

We’re weighing the alternatives.

What’s wrong with this creek? It’s sheltered. It’s pretty. But, it has two serious problems.

It’s right narrow. Narrow enough that Red Ranger could have trouble turning around if the wind was wrong. Sphincter-clenching narrow. 

And the entrance has a shoal. The guidebook suggests a way in — a route that read 12’ on the guidebook author's depth meter. We didn’t find that channel on the way in. We managed to crest the shoal because it was the absolute peak of high tide.

Having seen the entrance up close, we think we might know where the channel might be. But it’s hard to use the keel to find the proper path. 

The idea of getting out at the next high tide is daunting. Tomorrow’s first high tide is 04:43; sunrise isn’t until 07:00; nautical dawn is around 06:12. The second high tide is at 16:49; sunset is at 17:13; nautical dusk would be about 18:01.

If we can’t get out early, we’re stuck all day while the tide falls 2.5', then rises again. Sphincter-clenching shallow.

And did we mention thunderstorms? With tornado warnings? If we dragged, we’d immediately drag onto shore, possibly suffering damage from trees or stumps.

A boisterous night.

Year 2, Week 11, Screaming Along

Started: ICW Mile 283 Wrightsville Beach 34°12.42′N 077°47.94′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 384 Calabash Creek 33°52.41′N 078°34.19′W

Log: 58.6 nm. Time 8¾ hr. Engine 8¾ hr. Fuel 45.8 gal.


The Tuesday forecast for Charleston deteriorated to a point where we decided it wasn’t something we want to brave. If it was going to be warm and blustery, that would be okay. But cold, big seas, and opposing winds was a trifecta we didn’t want to play. 

Small Craft Advisory through Thursday.

SE Winds 20-25 with gusts to 30. Seas 4 to 6 ft… Building to 6 to 8 ft. 

Didn’t sound like something we’d be able to face after motoring and sailing all night Monday night.

Today, however, was a great day for departing Wrightsville. We had a huge push from the current as we headed toward the Cape Fear River. Yes, that says 9.1 knots. Hull speed is 7.4. We were screaming along the ICW.

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The Cape Fear River, however was flooding against us. The wind was with us, making it choppy and sloppy.

After a fuel filter change — and some requisite bleeding — Mr. Lehman was in tip-top condition all day. He earned a gold star ✪ for flawless service. 

Today (Monday) we motored to Little River Inlet. There are seven boats anchored in a bend in the creek. 

The night is beautiful, starry and so damned cold we’re not going outside to look at it.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, instead of arriving in Charleston, we’ll chug past Myrtle Beach to the Waccamaw river. Then Wednesday, we might do nothing while a storm rages. Thursday looks to be acceptable for transiting the Waccamaw and Winyah Bay. The South Santee River on Thursday night will be blustery, but manageable. 

Friday, perhaps, we’ll make it to Charleston. We wanted to be there for Thanksgiving. But. Weather didn’t seem to permit that.

A Right Cold Sunday

Today’s temps are awe-inspiringly cold. Not quite to freezing, but 2°C is close enough. Today’s high will be 6°C (42°F).

Weather

The forecast is at the edge of the envelope. Three foot seas are more-or-less our limit. If the seas are flattening from 3-5 down to 2-3, then that’s maybe a good thing and will make this acceptable. Winds 10-15 is about the lower limit for sailing.

Here’s the AMZ252, our departure:

Mon: NE winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 3 to 5 ft. 

Mon Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. A slight chance of rain. 

Further south, AMZ254

Mon: NE winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft. 

Mon Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. A slight chance of rain late. 

Further south, AMZ256

Mon: NE winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 3 to 5 ft. 

Mon Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft. A slight chance of rain. 

Then Charleston, AMZ350, our arrival:

Mon Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A slight chance of showers in the evening...then a chance of rain after midnight. 

Tue: E winds 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft...building to 4 to 5 ft in the afternoon. Rain.

So, we’re looking at plowing into Charleston in the AM facing into 15 kt winds and 3’-4’ seas. 

Temps will be right cold. High of 9°C (48°F) here in Wrightsville on Monday. High of 12°C down in Charleston on Monday; high of 19°C on Tuesday. 

Today we’ll get some groceries and stow everything for going to sea.

Looking South

Running out of verbs. How many ways can we watch/wait/update/examine the weather? Will we make Thanksgiving in Charleston? What’s next?

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Floating Leaf has been happy with the down time. She's been making Tiny Quilts left, right and center.

She also finished the rain flies.

And we’re following a suggestion from Bye Polar. We bought some kitty-litter crystals (which are essentially desiccants) and sewed them into little bags that we can put into lockers to absorb moisture. And any cat pee that winds up coming aboard.

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I’ve been doing mostly nothing. What I realized yesterday is that I should have ordered a new fuel pump because we’ve had plenty of time to install it while we’ve been waiting for weather. What started out as a two or three day stopover has blossomed into a destination.


Weather

Here’s the local news for the weekend in AMZ252.


Gale Watch
Hazardous Weather Outlook


...GALE WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING......

Synopsis...AN ARCTIC COLD FRONT WILL MOVE THROUGH FROM THE NORTH LATER TODAY. HIGH PRESSURE BUILDING IN FROM THE WEST WILL BRING INCREASING WINDS AND SEAS TONIGHT INTO SUNDAY. THIS HIGH WILL MOVE ACROSS NORTH CAROLINA MONDAY. GULF COAST LOW PRESSURE WILL APPROACH FROM THE SOUTHWEST TUESDAY BRINGING STRONG...VEERING WINDS THROUGH WEDNESDAY. 

That’s epic: “strong…veering winds through Wednesday.” 

However. There’s this nugget of non-horror in the local forecast.

Mon: NE winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft... Subsiding to 2 to 3 ft in the afternoon. 

Mon Night: NE winds 10 kt. Seas 2 ft. 

Here’s the forecast for AMZ350 down near Charleston.

Mon Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft. A slight chance of showers in the evening...then a chance of rain after midnight. 

Tue: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. Rain.

So. It’s a possibility that we could leave Monday with a reef in the main, arriving Tuesday in not horrible conditions. We might just barely squeeze into Charleston in time for Thanksgiving.

The Trip South

Back in Looking Down the Road, I outlined a possible trip south via Okracoke. A trip that we declined, electing to stick with a route we were more familiar with because we anticipated some right bad weather. And we were comfortable in the known anchorage of Mile Hammock Bay.

Heading S to Charleston, the ICW isn’t too bad; no worse than the Beaufort to Wrightsville stretch, just a bit longer. From Charleston to St. Mary’s, however, the ICW is almost impassable for a deep-draft boat. It requires careful assessment of the tides to make progress each day. More careful that we think we’re capable of.

We ran aground hard at mark G121 just a few miles from here. That makes us a little worried about the ditch.

Looking south from Charleston, our journey might shape up like this:

  1. Day Sail Charleston to St. Helena. 35 nm; 6 hrs. Doable in one day. Anchor up S. Edisto River in Big Bay Creek; or up Morgan River, S of Morgan Island. 
  2. Short motor the ditch to Beaufort. The N side of Morgan Island is the ICW (mile 520) which goes past Beaufort. (mile 536).
  3. Day Sail S from Beaufort to Port Royal Sound. 15 nm to ocean; 12 nm around Hilton Head Island; 5 nm up to Bull Creek behind Daufuskie Island. 32 mm; 6 hours. 
  4. (S from Daufuskie to 2W (17 nm) then up Wassaw Sound?)
  5. Day Sail S From Daufuskie to Sapelo Sound. 40 nm; 7-8 hour day. Up Sapelo to Blackbeard’s Island.
  6. Day Sail from Blackbeard’s Island to Doboy Inlet; Back River. 10-15 nm; 2-3 hr.
  7. Day Sail from Doboy to St. Simon’s. 20 nm; 3-4 hr.
  8. Day Sail St. Simon’s to St. Mary’s. 24 nm; 3-4 hr. We did this north-bound last year.
  9. Day Sail St. Mary’s to St. John’s River (Pablo Creek). Ideally up to Jacksonville to wait for our Holiday trip out west.

It’s a day trip back and forth from Jacksonville to St. Augustine in case we need a change of scenery.

Weather Update

There’s only so much hand-wringing you can do. Here’s how we started our day.

Looking forward to next week, we see this synopsis for Charleston (AMZ350) [Emphasis mine.]

STRONG HIGH PRESSURE WILL EXTEND ACROSS THE AREA FROM THE NORTH TODAY...BEFORE WEAKENING AND SHIFTING SOUTH FRIDAY. AN ARCTIC COLD FRONT WILL APPROACH FROM THE NORTHWEST SATURDAY...PASSING THROUGH THE REGION SATURDAY NIGHT WITH GALES LIKELY INTO SUNDAY. STRONGER AND MUCH COLDER HIGH PRESSURE WILL THEN PREVAIL INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK. 

This is the synopsis for Cape Fear (AMZ252)

HIGH PRESSURE OVER COASTAL NEW ENGLAND WILL WEAKEN AT SEA TONIGHT AND FRIDAY. AN ARCTIC COLD FRONT APPROACHING FROM THE WEST WILL BRING INCREASING WINDS AND SEAS SATURDAY NIGHT. CANADIAN HIGH PRESSURE WILL CROSS THE OHIO VALLEY SUNDAY AND MOVE INTO NORTH CAROLINA MONDAY.

Ugh.

We need two days of good weather to sail outside to Charleston. Friday to Saturday isn’t enough time.

We need three days of not horrifying weather to trudge down the ditch. 

The issue with the ditch is that the Cape Fear River, the Waccamaw River and Winyah bay are aligned N-S. Any kind of S wind makes those stretches awful, so the arctic cold fronts are sort of good because they bring wind from the N. But they’re also sort of bad because they’re right cold.

Monday near Cape Fear, however, looks a little better than anything we’ve seen for the last two weeks.

Mon: NE winds 10 to 15 kt...becoming E 5 to 10 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft. 

Down near Charleston, Monday doesn’t look great, but we won’t get there until Tuesday.

Mon: NE winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

We’ll see how the forecast changes over the next few days. We can hope that the 4-6 foot seas are left-over swell from the gale force winds and they’ll settle down on Tuesday.

Enough hand-wringing.

We went to Seapath Marina and did laundry. Unlike some other  marinas in the area, they’re polite about letting us spend money there without tying up to their docks. The secret sauce is (a) going in the early afternoon mid-week when nothing else is going on, and (b) having met some of the folks at the jam session, we’re more like guests of Magic Beans than random transients.

Home Handicrafts

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Floating Leaf making a Tiny Quilt.

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The new propane heater. And a lot of clutter.

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Floating Leaf repurposed the Bourbon Container for a soap and toothbrush  holder in the forward head.

How you know you’re going nowhere. You make things. Or buy things to keep warm while making things.

Weather Window

Last week, the arctic blast that arrived last night was expected to be brutal. As time has passed, the weather moderated, and today’s cold was just cold. Not quite brutal.

But.

The next few days look like this for the Cape Fear area (AMZ252.)

...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING......

Synopsis...A STRONG GRADIENT WILL PERSIST THROUGH THE MID WEEK PERIOD WITH A GRADUAL DECREASE IN WIND AND SEAS BEGINNING ON FRIDAY. AN ARCTIC COLD FRONT APPROACHING FROM THE WEST WILL RAMP UP WINDS AND SEAS ON SATURDAY. 

As in: you’re not going anywhere soon.

Looking further down the coast (AMZ254)

Thu: NE winds 15 kt with gusts up to 25 kt. Seas 3 to 5 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

Thu Night: NE winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft. 

Fri: E winds 10 kt...becoming S. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

Sat: SW winds 10 to 15 kt...becoming NW. Seas 2 to 4 ft. A chance of showers. 

We might be able to leave late Thursday and endure big wind and big seas as we depart. Or we might leave Friday with nicer weather, But if we leave Friday, we might wind up bashing into the waves as we approach Charleston on Saturday morning.

The Charleston weather (AMZ350) says this.

Fri: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 4 to 5 ft. 

Fri Night: S winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

Sat: W winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

It will be a bit nicer down Charleston way. Except for the 5’ seas.

The bad news is that this series of cold fronts has us pinned down. The good news is that — except for laundry — Wrightsville Beach is nice.

Year 2, Week 10, Wrightsville Beach Excitement

Waiting for weather. Except for the laundromat issue, this is a great place to wait for weather.

Today’s Excitement? There’s good and there’s bad.

First, the bad.

One of the boats anchored near us had dragged their anchor. Greg from Serenade calls it “Bumper Boats in a Blow.”

The more secluded part of the anchorage (to the N) has a fairly hard bottom. It took us two tries to get set.

The more open part of the anchorage — S of the channel — seems to have a softer bottom. It’s also deeper in places, requiring some searching to find a shallow spot.

We’re anchored in 12’ of water, about 2’ above low tide. The full range of the tide here is almost 5’. So we’ll be in 15’ of water at high tide and 10’ at low tide. More or less.

That means a minimum of 100’ of anchor rode. For us, that’s the whole chain. After that, we threw in another 15’ of the rope that’s bent to the chain.

The boat that appeared to have been dragging has also left the N anchorage. At first, we thought they were heading in the S anchorage, too. Thankfully, they’re not. We’re hopeful that they’re at a marina where they're less likely to cause any damage in the coming bad weather.

Music Night

The good news is that Greg from Serenade knows a bunch of folks here in Wrightsville. Over at Seapath Marina, specifically, he knows some folks who have an irregular jam session.

Greg’s a bass player, so I brought the uke and the bass, expecting to play relatively little bass and more uke. 

I was able — for the most part — to keep up with most of the songs. The songs where everyone puts the capo on the second fret is a struggle on the ukulele. On the bass, it’s a piece of cake: I’ve learned lots of ways to play bass parts that transpose easily. But for the uke, it involves real thinking to transpose into new keys and new chords. And since I don’t know very many chords, it did get awkward. 

Shopping and Dining

CA and Jo from Serenade went out shopping for bulk goods at Trader Joe’s. Later, we went we out to dinner. The folks from Serenade had rented a car to make things like shopping and dining out easier.

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Greg was working on alternator and starter upgrades. They’re planning an extended Easter Caribbean Cruise and figured they would do all the due diligence preventive maintenance they could while still in the US of A.

I mostly hung around doing whatever it is that I do.

Laundry and Shopping

The marina I emailed really was imbecilic. If they can’t get $2.50 per foot for a 30’ minimum ($75 per day) to use the laundry, they’d prefer to have no income at all. I asked. Twice. Different ways. Just to be sure I read the answer properly in the email.

That left us with a 2+ mile walk from Wrightsville Beach to the 103 bus line. We got bored waiting for the 104 bus and wound up walking all the way to the 103 route. We went to a nice laundromat on College Ave in Wilmington.

On the way back from the laundry, with a bag of clean clothes, we stopped at the hardware store to get a small propane heater. We stopped at West Marine to get working binocular. We stopped at Harris Teeter to get provisions.

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A big day out.

On the way back from our outing, we ran into the crew of Serenade. They’re going to be here a while fixing their starter motor and alternator. 

We’ve got their number, so we can rendezvous with them over the next few days.

And yes, the river is full of big jellyfish. Big.

Wrightsville Beach, NC

Cafe Del Mar for WiFi and Coffee. Finally figured out how to use SpotWalla to show my location history; I regret not having looked into this back in October.

Post Office to ship some Floating Leaf Tiny Quilts. Follow the action on the Floating Leaf Tiny Quilts Blog.

And yes, Floating Leaf does make her tiny quilts while we’re underway. There are periods driving down the ditch where there’s not much going on except… well… staring at North Carolina over the lifelines. As long as there’s no weather, it works out really well. Bright Sun. Beautiful Scenery. Mr. Lehman’s Thunder.

When Red Ranger’s under sail, of course, there’s no way to work on art projects. The motion of the boat is too lively.

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We’d like to go to a marina to do laundry. But they’re imbeciles and don’t have day use fees. Our only local option is to pay $2.50/foot with a 30’ minimum ($75) to use the laundry machines. A taxi to Wilmington would be $25.

We need to work out the public transport issues to get to a laundromat and to to get a propane heater as well as replace our 20# propane tank. We tried using the Wave Transit web site.

Sadly, their Google Transit Feed has errors in it, so Google can’t figure a route from where we are to a laundromat. We have to walk 1.5 miles to Eastwood Road and Wrightsville Ave to get the 104 bus. Then we should be able to take the 104 bus to Military Cutoff. Get off that bus and walk a short distance down Wrightsville Road and get on the 103 bus that goes downtown to where there are laundromats.

Because of the faulty GTF data, the routes involve a 2-hour journey around the outskirts of Wilmington, NC.

Weather Watch

Zone AMZ252 — Cape Fear NC to Little River Inlet SC

Sat: NE winds 10 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft. A chance of showers with isolated tstms. 

Sat Night: E winds 10 kt or less. Seas 2 to 4 ft. 

Sun: E winds 10 kt. Seas 3 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

Zone AMZ350 — South Santee River to Edisto Beach SC

Sat: NE winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

Sat Night: E winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Sun: SE winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A chance of showers.

Seas 2’-4’ is the one thing about this forecast that’s unpleasant. The SE winds approaching Charleston are a bit of a problem, since they’re be right on the nose; we’d be bashing straight into 3’-4’ seas. We’ve wound up in this situation before, but it’s really not something we want to do on purpose.

And it continues to get less and less pleasant through Tuesday: “Tue: NE winds 20 to 25 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft.” Ouch. If the N wind holds into Wed and Thu, however, Tuesday might be a good day to start run down the ditch. If the winds moderate, though, Wed or Thu might be good days to sail outside.

Hand-wring. Hand-wring. What do I want to bet on? Heavy Weather? Moderating Weather? How long do I want to camp here? It’s cheaper here than Charleston, so we have an incentive to stay. We have no fixed schedule, so there’s no incentive to endure a beating truing to go south.

Hard Aground

Started: Mile Hammock Bay 34°33.05′N 077°19.52′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 283 Wrightsville Beach 34°12.42′N 077°47.94′W

Log: 36.8 nm. Time 7 hr. Engine Hours 7


The cold was epic. Ice on deck. Again. And other problems, bigger problems than ice.

At the least, we’re heading south. And the weather is expected to moderate. Until Monday.

Shoaling

Mile 280.4, Green 121 is in a skinny place in the channel, right by some floating docks.

Hug The Docks. (You’ve been warned.)

The center of the channel (at low tide) is only less than 5’ deep.

We know: we checked the depth with our keel and found that it was clearly less than 6’. 

It took about an hour of rising tide, plus wakes from passing boats, plus lots of rudder wiggling and forward thrust to get off the shoal and into the channel. Nearer to the docks.

Timing

There are three bascule bridges between Mile Hammock and Wrightsville Beach. When heading S, this plan worked for us today.

  1. Leave about 07:30.
  2. Pass through the Surf City bridge at the 10:00 opening.
  3. Pass through the Figure Eight Island bridge at the 12:00 opening. We had a fair current. Otherwise, slow down and aim for the 13:00 opening.
  4. Pass through the Wrightsville Beach bridge at the 13:00 opening. If you run aground or had a bad current set against you, you’ll make the 14:00 opening.

The distance between Wrightsville Beach Bridge and Figure Eight Island Bridge is a bit of a problem for Red Ranger. It’s 5 statute miles, 4.3 nautical miles. Our slowest speed under power — engine at idle — new paint — is just about 4.5 kt. So we have to actually dawdle down the ditch killing time: drop out of gear and drift; use reverse. Idling through that stretch means we’d go too fast.

And. We can’t make the half-hour at Figure Eight Island, because we can’t go 8.6 kt unless there’s a ripping 1.2 kt tidal current.

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Resupply

We need a few groceries. And laundry. Maybe showers. 

We’d like to — perhaps — get a propane heater. But we don’t really need it. It’s a right long trip to a hardware store. We’d have to rig bicycles to get it.

More importantly, my trusty old 7×50 binocular took a nasty hit. They’re now out of whack. I see double. And there don’t seem to be any adjustment screws to get the lenses to be parallel with each other. I looks like I either bent the frame or dislodged something inside. The rubberized covering might peel off, revealing screws that might be adjusted. Or not.

It might be time to fork over some $$$’s for a new binocular. Ideally, one with the internal reticule marked with numbers so I didn’t have to try and count the damn lines. Also, one with a battery light for getting bearings at night.

Bus 104 apparently goes past the Lowe’s that has the heater (8 in stock) and probably has 1# propane cylinders. As soon as we figure out the route, I think we have our activities for tomorrow planned.

Doing The Charleston 

We see two ways to get from here to Charleston.

One overnight sail directly there. We did this going South. It was a great motor-sail.

Three days inside. Last year, going North, we stopped at three places between Charleston and Wrightsville.

  • 33°52.351′N 078°34.204′W — ICW Mile 341 — Little River, Calabash Creek. This gave us fits because it’s just sort of a wide spot in the creek.
  • 33°39.954′N 079°04.235′W — ICW Mile 375 — Waccamaw River oxbow. This was elegantly secluded.
  • 33°11.850′N 079°27.216′W — ICW Mile 420 — South Santee River. This was a wide-open marsh with no cover of any kind.

The deciding factor is weather. There are four coastal forecast zones between here and Charleston: AMZ252, AMZ254, AMZ256 and AMZ350. 

Tonight, there’s mild winds and flat seas. Wind from the E makes for a possibly good beam reach sail down to Charleston.

The rest of the forecasts through Monday are for winds more-or-less from the S — SE, S or SW — and big seas — 4’-5’ — stuff that doesn’t sound pleasant to us. Weather will be rainy through Monday. Tuesday will be another night where it falls to 2°C because a strong cold front sweeps across the area.

What to do?

We’re not sailing any time soon, that’s clear.

If we wait here, we avoid some stinky weather. 

If we try to spend three days chugging down to Charleston, we would still expose ourselves to contrary winds in the Cape Fear Inlet and the Winyah Bay. These are long exposed stretches, and wind on the nose is at least unpleasant and possibly dangerous. 

We chugged into the big seas created by contrary winds in the Cape Fear river last year. It was fatiguing and that makes it dangerous. Once our judgement is impaired, then everything becomes risky.

Ice On Deck

Ice!

It was so cold… (How cold was it?)

  • we had to run the the engine for an hour to warm up the boat enough to eat a cold breakfast.
  • we could use the ice from the bimini for our gin and tonics.
  • the fridge doesn’t need to run.

Coincidentally. Our primary propane cylinder decided to call it quits today, also. That leads to much grief and consternation. We already replaced the solenoid while in Great Bridge. 

It was brutally cold and the stove decides not to work. 

WWN “What’s Wrong Now?”

WJFT “We Just Fixed That!”

Things you say so often, they go without saying.

It was below 0°C last night. And will be again tonight.

Tomorrow it may reach 14°C (57°F) which will be welcome.

A Mr. Heater MH18 that burns 1# propane cylinders would have been a good idea back when we were in Hampton or Norfolk. When it was warm. And we didn’t need a heater. 

We’ll buy one when we get to civilization. Then — don’t you know — it will be a delightful, mild winter and we’ll never use it.

Mile Hammock Bay

Started: Town Creek, Beaufort, NC 34°43.57′N 076°40.04′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 244 Mile Hammock Bay 34°33.05′N 077°19.52′W

Log: 44.3 nm. Time 7 hr. Engine Hours 7


We received our NOAA All Hazards Weather Alert while we chugged down the ICW today. Arctic Air Mass. Cold. Gale Force Winds. Waves. Danger.

Since leaving Coinjock, every day has been warm and sunny. Beautiful.

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The night at Coinjock was cold. Really cold. But the last four nights have been delightful. Crisp or maybe chilly. But not cold

Tonight (and tomorrow) promise to be right cold. 

As we chugged down the ICW, we had plenty of time for self-doubt. Was this the right decision? Should we have paid for several nights of dockage at Beaufort (with amenities like power for our heaters?) Should we have holed up in South River or some other sheltered creek?

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Would Mile Hammock Bay be filled with other boats? 

(Other than the USMC boats, that is. They’re all over the place, but don’t anchor anywhere.)

So far, we've had a great day on the water. 

There are few other boats here. We think this will be good holding. There’s little cover, but flat seas in gale force winds from the N or NW. Most everyone else seems to have found another place to hole up.

We’re hoping that Wednesday is cold and otherwise uneventful.

Year 2, Week 9, Beaufort, NC

Started: Campbell Creek 35°17.11′N 076°37.18′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 201 Town Creek, Beaufort, NC 34°43.57′N 076°40.04′W

Log: 55.2 nm. Time 8½ hr. Engine Hours 7.6


Beaufort is a Big Milestone. Mile 200 out of 1,000. We’re finally getting somewhere. The repairs are behind us. Except for the stuff that doesn’t work.

Charleston is about mile 470. Nearly half-way to the Florida Keys.

St. Augustine is mile 780. That’s close to ¾ of the way to where we can jump over to the Bahamas.

About midnight last night, the wind went from zero to roaring. More-or-less instantly. Campbell creek offers no protection, so it was unpleasant to wake up in the middle of the might and try to determine if we were dragging.

There’s a great iPhone app to tell if your anchor is dragging — Anchor Alarm. Great when you have cell coverage. Not so great when you don’t.

There’s a great gadget, a Dual XGPS150 which should provide position updates (via Bluetooth) to an iPhone. Anywhere in the world. Irrespective of cell coverage.

Except it’s doesn’t seem to work with my phone. The antenna receives. But the phone sort of ignores the stream of data. Sort of. It’s hard to tell what’s going on, except that the app from Dual doesn’t even see the GPS data. 

Midnight with 20 knots gusts is not the time to find out that your anchor alarm doesn’t really work any more.

Today, after anchoring in Beaufort, I was able to determine that CA’s iPhone works just fine. We’ll use that from now on.

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Sail Time

Today we chugged down the canal between the Pamlico and the Bay River which joins with the Neuse River.

The Neuse is our nemesis. It’s delightfully situated to be a great place to sail. 

However.

When you’re transiting the ICW, you have to make a huge turn from the Bay into the Neuse. So the wind may be fair for one leg, but odds are good it will be awful for the next leg.

Today the wind was a gusty and twitchy 15 kt from East of North, giving us a roaring fast beam reach. Hull speed. Delightful sailing. For about an hour.

When we reached the Neuse, we had to turn SW and run dead downwind. We’re just awful at sailing downwind. 

It gets worse.

After derigging to get hauled out and rerigging at the dock, I had bent the yankee on incorrectly. We were okay on a port reach. We could fall off to a nice broad reach. But we couldn’t gybe. So we had to drop the sails and run down the river under bare poles using the engine. Sigh.

We pulled into South River to fix the Yankee. We brought it down on deck, squared away the rigging and hoisted it back up. Noisy and stressful, but it’s now up correctly.

Then we slogged down Adams creek and into another new anchorage: Town Creek. This is much more manageable than Taylor Creek. It’s still full of boats, forcing us out into the area where the wind from almost any direction except the NE can make it unpleasant. But it’s better than Taylor Creek. And cheaper than the city dock.

Weather

The upcoming weather for zone AMZ158, Cape Lookout to Surf City.

Tue: NW winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming N 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 35 kt in the afternoon. Seas 1 to 2 ft...building to 2 to 4 ft in the afternoon. Dominant period 7 seconds. 

Tue Night: N winds 25 to 30 kt with gusts up to 40 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft...except 4 to 6 ft near shore. Dominant period 5 seconds. A slight chance of showers in the evening. 

Wed: N winds 25 to 30 kt with gusts up to 40 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft... Except 3 to 4 ft near shore. Dominant period 8 seconds. 

Wed Night: N winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 2 to 4 ft. 

Thu: N winds 10 to 15 kt...becoming NE 5 to 10 kt in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

Tuesday will grow progressively more stinky, even in the ditch. The wind will be almost on the nose as we go essentially W along the coast inside the ICW. The Small Craft Advisory starts 4:00 Tuesday. 

We plan to get to Mile Hammock Bay, which is not great. But it will have more shelter than this spot in Town Creek. And be cheaper than the city dock.

Wednesday looks to be really bad. Low of 3°C. We think we’ll just stay put. Bake cookies. Sew. Read. Wear our jammies all day.

Campbell Creek

Started: Newport News Point 35°40.45′N 076°03.34′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 154 Campbell Creek 35°17.11′N 076°37.18′W

Log: 48.0 nm. Time 7¾ hr. Engine Hours 7¾.


Anchored next to Motu. Again. And also next to Casa Blanca. We met them in Deltaville earlier this year.

We had a delightful trip down the Alligator River & Pungo River Canal. It’s an exercise in patience. We motored part way down the Pungo river.

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At the turn, near where we sat out Hurricane Sandy last year, we fell off to close hauled. It was cool watching the sailboats in front of us make the turn and start raising sail.

We made the turn, pulled out the Yankee and motor-sailed down the Pungo river for all of an hour. Then we had to put the Yankee away to motor across the Pamlico river.

The hour of motor sailing was good. 

Now we’re tucked into a creek surrounded by open marshland. Good in settled weather. No protection to speak of. The creek has some locally maintained marks: some crazy dilapidated PVC pipe jammed into the banks to show the fairway.

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I’m slowly convincing myself that our fuel lift pump is struggling. Occasionally — infrequently — Mr. Lehman will lug like he’s not getting enough fuel. Filters are clean. Switching to the spare filter has no effect. That might mean the fuel pickup in the tank is clogged, but we sloshed in 40 gallons of new fuel, which tends to rinse out any clogs.

What’s left is the fuel lift pump. Other boaters have suggested that the diaphragm gets old and starts to leak a little letting air into the system. I have a rebuild kit of unknown age. I think I’d rather get a new pump and use the rebuild kit to refurbish the old pump.


Alligator River

Started: Midway Marina 36°21.10′N 075°56.85′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 103 Newport News Point 35°40.45′N 076°03.34′W

Log: 52.1 nm. Time 7¼ hr. Engine Hours 7¼.


Anchored next to Motu and Hold Fast. We last saw them in Deltaville.

We find that we might be getting a little better at this.

We elected not to pass by Manteo. The weather looks like it’s going to become snotty on Tuesday night and Wednesday, so we’d like to be in some anchorages we are already familiar with.

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The tiny smudge of trees on the horizon is Roanoke Island. Really.

We covered 50 miles today. If we do a similar distance tomorrow, we’ll be near some nice-looking creeks around mile marker 150.

We could have — perhaps — covered another 25 miles today and slogged through the Alligator River Pungo Canal to some anchorages just past mile 125. But it would have added another 2-3 hours to our day. Anchoring around 1800 this time of year is risky. It’s dark. And cold.

Beaufort is mile 200. That means another 50 mile day on Monday. If we can make Mile Hammock Bay on Tuesday, we can sit out the potentially bad weather there on Wednesday, and move to Wrightsville on Thursday.

Since we’ll be inside, the N winds on Wednesday will actually be helpful. It will be right cold, but. If the waterway remains reasonably calm, it’s better to freeze moving the boat (with the engine heating the interior) than to freeze just sitting around.

Once we’re in Wrightsville, we have to decide if we’re going inside or outside to Charleston. It’s a comfortable, roomy anchorage. Lots of amenities including cell phone coverage and internet. We can easily wait there for clement weather before going offshore.

Anniversaries

Last year (on this date) we were sailing to Charleston. We’re only about a week or so behind last year. Last year it was a hurricane. This year it was two engine repairs.

Last year, each maneuver — each one — was a sphincter-clenching exercise that required both of us. Just turning to follow the marks across the Albemarle Sound and into the Alligator river was fraught with fear. We’d heard so many stories of people who’d missed a mark and run aground. We didn’t want to be That Crew — you know — the one the ran their new boat hard aground because they misread a simple channel mark.

Finding each mark and steering to it was real work. 

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This year, CA could work on Floating Leaf Tiny Quilts when she wasn’t driving. Between the chart plotter and binocular, I could find all the marks without much sweat.

Last year we got to this location on the 25th of October. We’d only moved aboard five weeks before. We’d spent most of those five weeks tooling up and down the Chesapeake. We’d only left Norfolk on the 22nd of October. Our first ICW overnight was tied to a bulkhead in South Mills between the Dismal Swamp lock and the bridge. Our second night was tied to a dock in Elizabeth City. Our first real anchorage was at the N end of the Alligator river.

This was just our second real anchorage. It’s a kind of anniversary spot.

Coinjock, NC

Started: Atlantic Yacht Basin 36°43.20′N 076°14.03′W 

Docked: ICW Mile 50 Midway Marina 36°21.10′N 075°56.85′W

Log: 35.4 nm. Time 6½  hr. Engine Hours 6½.

Fuel: Took on 40 gallons.


Said goodbye to Baccalieu. They’re going back to Toronto for a while and will resume their southbound voyage in a week or two.

We might be changing our plans for heading south.

We had an excellent motor down the Virginia Cut. In spite of the insane traffic aiming for the opening of the Centerville Turnpike bridge at 0830.

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The new PYI Packless Shaft Seal? ✔ Working.

The new propane solenoid? ✔ Working.

The new engine coolers? ✔ Working.

We have a nagging issue with a tiny leak on the secondary fuel filters. But I think that can only be “fixed” with a better copper washer to reduce weeping around the bleed screw.

The breeze was blowing in the 20’s. The temperature this morning was 7°C so it was one right cold trip. The Currituck was choppy and could have been nasty if we’d been bashing into it. Since we were running with the winds all day, it was mostly just cold.

The sun was out, Red Ranger was working perfectly. 

We’re on our way south. Finally. We’re out of Virginia.

We had the ICW Pasta at Crabbies in the Midway Marina. Delightful.

The Travel Plan

We started looking forward toward Manteo. We know that other Whitbys — Joie de Vivre and Hold Fast — have been there recently, so we’re confident that we can fit in, too. 

We have a list of stops that gets us to Beaufort by way of Manteo. See Looking Down the Road for that list of stops.

Now that we’re getting down the brass tacks: what about the weather?

WX on Albemarle Sound (AMZ130)

Sat

N winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming SW in the afternoon. Waves 1 ft.

Sun

W winds 10 to 15 kt. Waves 1 to 2 ft.

Mon

N winds 10 to 15 kt...becoming E around 5 kt in the afternoon. Waves 1 ft.

All good. We can cross to Manteo any time in the next three days.

How long can we stay? Or — more accurately — how long do we have to stay?

Tuesday says this: “W winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming N 15 to 20 kt. Waves 1 ft...building to 2 to 3 ft. A chance of showers.”

That would be something to avoid. After Manteo we have to navigate the Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. But there’s little point in trying to plan that far into the future.

Wednesday in AMZ135 we see this: “N winds 20 to 25 kt. Waves 2 to 3 ft. A chance of showers.” 

That, too, would be something to avoid. So maybe we would have to spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Manteo.

That’s not the whole story, though.

The temperatures are going to drop to about 4°C (40°F) on Tuesday and Wednesday. High of 8°C (46°F.) A brutal level of cold. It will be just like living in a refrigerator. 

That suggests that we don’t wait.

Saturday: Manteo, no sightseeing. No going ashore. Maybe 35 or so miles in one day.

Sunday: Long Shoal River.

Monday: South River.

Tuesday: Beaufort.

Or 

Saturday: Alligator River (S). A whopping 50 miles in one day.

Sunday: Belhaven/Pungo Creek.

Monday: South River.

Tuesday: Beaufort.

Either way, we wind up in Milehammock Bay on Wednesday.

CA’s Rain Fly

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Our hard dodger has two tiny gaps at the for'rd corners.







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It looks good, but, there’s a path for rain to drip on the bench.

If the bimini cover went down low enough to prevent all dripping, it would be right difficult to get out of the cockpit.




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CA invented a rain fly. She made the first one for the starboard side. We finally tested it in this morning's rain.





The verdict?

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Success.

Some splashing about, but, the corner where we sit on night watch is reasonably dry.

Now that we have confirmation that the design is solid, we can start work on the port side.



Shaft Seal Update

Around noon they put Red Ranger in the sling, hauled her out, and set her on blocks temporarily. The mechanic put in a PSS Shaft Seal (ww.shaftseal.com.) 

On the trip back to the outer dock, it did not drip. For over $1,000 it had best not drip. Ever. 

The mechanic thinks this seal is a far better choice that the previous product from Tides Marine. The issue is the engine and shaft vibration. The Tides Marine Sure Seal wasn’t a good choice with an engine that has as much vibration as Mr. Lehman.

We reset all our rigging (as best we could). CA topped off the water. We still have a bit more stowage to do before we get into bigger seas outside ditch. 

Tomorrow we’ll top off the fuel and try to go 38 miles in the ditch to Coinjock.

Next day we’ll anchor out in the North River, maybe broad creek. Maybe Buck Island.

Then we’ll see if we’re all ready to try to sail down to Manteo on Roanoke Island.

Year 2, Week 8, A Bad Case of the Mondays

Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news?

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The good news is we’re launched and back into the A&C canal.

The bad news is that the propane system failed again.

The worse news is that the Tides Marine Sure Seal isn’t a sure seal, and must be replaced.

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The propane solenoid corked off sometime last night. This morning, it just wouldn’t open the valve. No hot coffee or tea to take the edge of the 6° temps this morning. Sigh.

So while one mechanic was trying to figure out why the Tides Marine Sure Seal was still dripping, the other replaced our propane solenoid.

So, we can at least have hot coffee while waiting for the replacement shaft seal to arrive.  The shaft itself is generally good, the cooling-water plumbing is good. There isn’t much of a culprit left except the Sure Seal assembly itself. The mechanics tried moving it around to find a spot on the shaft where it wouldn’t leak. Epic Fail. 

CA was in the lounge while the mechanic, the parts guy and the yard supervisor talked with the vendor. Tides Marine suggested we don’t buy their product again. It’s unsuitable for use on this boat.

It’s going to be replaced with an entirely different kind of shaft seal. Most likely the PYI seal.

Blind Faith has pulled into the dock. That makes everything better.

And CA found the farm stand in Great Bridge. So we have a better selection of fresh veggies.

Weekend in Great Bridge

Maybe we’ll be done with the shaft and seal on Monday. Then we can put the rig back together, top off the fuel and start heading south.

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We’ve talked with Baloo, Sojourner, Puff, and Zephyrus who have passed through and are heading south from Deltaville

Without us.

In addition to experience cruisers, we’ve met a number of people who have done something that is far more ballsy than anything we’d ever do.

People who have set off for a long, multi-day cruise on a boat they’ve just purchased.

They’ve never even day-sailed it. They’re not sure what’s in it.

And.

Away they go.

We’re far too cautious to try something like that. 

This morning’s family of three couldn’t get their new-to-them Hunter 27 to start. I warned them that I was only familiar with one diesel engine (Mr. Lehman) but I could take a look and see why their's wouldn’t start.

We spent three years rebuilding parts of the Red Ranger. We took many day trips and short overnights to be sure we understood the boat. I’m glad I dismantled much of the rigging to replace the chainplates. That gave me the courage to remove the forestays to put the Red Ranger on the backwards travelift here.

Their problem? The Hunter starter button is a two-part thing: push and turn. Not obvious. But it started once we pushed and turned.

Bridge times? They didn’t have the list. Radio? They weren’t sure their's worked. Fuel? No clue how much was in the tank. Alternator voltage looked low to me. But. What do I know?

I didn’t ask if they had a Tow Boat contract.

Away they went.

Leaving us sitting in a boatyard, fixing a drip. It’s just a drip. Sometimes a dribble, but usually a drip. Nothing much. We’re sitting, they’re out driving their boat around.

One Awkward Situation

The travelift here at AYB isn’t really setup for ketch-rigged sailboats. One of the two lifting straps cannot be moved.

Red Ranger needs a strap essentially under each mast. The straps can be pushed a foot or two forward of the mast, but never aft.

IMG_1867

Since one of the straps on this lift is underneath the framework, we can’t come anywhere near lifting with a strap under each mast.

The lift at the Deltaville Boat Yard has two movable straps. We would back in, slack all the backstays and lower the mizzen boom to make sure the framework didn’t collide with the rigging.

We backed into the slip yesterday.

At 07:30 AM this morning, the crew looked at Red Ranger and explained what should have happened yesterday.

  1. We should have gone in forward. They’ll spin her around for me.
  2. I should have removed the two forestays so that they could get the main mast as close to the lift frame as possible.

Okay. I’ll rearrange the rigging. Right away. When you think about it, I’m paying these guys to watch me work.

Removing the forestays is something I have never done before. I had slacked them this summer in order to get the backstay chainplates out. So, this was a lot like the chainplate work I’ve already done. Twice.

I slacked the backstays. That didn't help much. 

I took the sails down so that I could take the furling drums apart and slack the forestays.

With a little bit of swearing, I got both forestay clevis pins out and moved the forestays along side the boat, tied in place with short pieces of line. They’re immensely long and can’t rest comfortably on deck.

The inner stay was pretty easy to get apart. It could probably stand to be a hair tighter when I reassemble.

A little pounding to get the outer pin out is actually a Very Bad Thing™. It means the pin won’t go back in because the shackle holes will never align.

In order to put the pin in, I think I need to relax all of the shrouds, also. Then I can pin the forestays. Then I can tension the rig. 

Again.

I hope that’s all that’s required.

By noon today, Friday, the mechanic had our Sure Seal apart and the shaft out of the boat.

So, we’re feeling pretty good about getting this done right without a long wait for parts. 

  © Steven Lott 2016