Safety [Updated]

The Commodore has two safety items for Red Ranger.

  • Class B AIS Transponder.
  • Radar.

We’ve got a good AIS receiver in our Standard Horizon GX2150 radio connected to our Standard Horizon CP300 chart plotter.

But that’s not a transponder. We’re only visible to big ships as a radar blip, not a proper AIS track with a Point of Closest Approach (PCA.) We like seeing big ships as a detailed AIS track. We think it might help us if big ships could see us that way, too.

We need to start the budgeting process for the large piles of money involved.

There are two transponder approaches: dedicated antenna and splitter. The dedicated antenna would have to be run up a mast.

We already have two VHF radios that share one antenna with a splitter. 

However. I’m not sure our ancient antenna splitter is really up to the demands of the new AIS and DSC requirements.

I think the simplest (but more expensive) is to get a class B transponder and a splitter. I can replace the old splitter with the new AIS splitter. I can replace the spare radio with the AIS transponder. I think that gets us up and running with almost no wiring changes to speak of. I think I can even leave the old radio in place. If we need it, we can just move the antenna wire from AIS transponder to radio.

Two of the splitters available (Vesper Marine SP160 and Digital Yacht SPL2000) also provide AM/FM antenna capability. That’s very appealing, since we have an AM/FM antenna wedged up behind the cabinetry. Removing that antenna would reduce electrical clutter a bit.

I like the Si-Tex MDA-1 transponder because it has it’s own internal GPS antenna. There’s a certain elegant simplicity to avoiding holes in the deck. But the Vesper XB8000 seems somewhat cooler because it has a WiFi interface to the iPhone or iPad. The idea of getting GPS position via WiFi is appealing. However, this may require drilling yet another hole in the deck for the external GPS antenna. 

It’s remotely possible that the antenna will work below decks — our other GPS antennas work below the deck. We have a Bluetooth GPS antenna from Dual; it was invaluable when using the iPad to navigate. It seems to work below deck.

Radar

The Standard Horizon can interface with a Si-Tex Radar. The choices include the smallish MDS-1, and the larger MDS-8. There are others, but they get big and expensive.

This is one of those items that we’ve needed on a few occasions. Very few. While a big, accurate radar might be kind of fun, it’s also a power hog. While the small cheap MDS-1 radar might fit our budget, it seems like we shouldn’t go too cheap on safety. On the other hand, it’s only supplemental to eyes and GPS. On the other hand, a large, super accurate radar on a tipsy sailboat doesn’t make much sense. A giant MDS-10-5 (with a 5’ open array) is going to be really accurate, but only on a low, stable trawler.

Another subtlety is getting the platform properly level on the mizzen mast. A self-leveling bracket costs as much as the radar itself! Without a self-leveling bracket, we'll miss targets on the weather side of the boat because the radar’s sweeping up into the air; and the range on the leeward size will be limited because the radar’s pointed down at the water.

I guess the good news is that we can always replace a fixed bracket with a self-leveling bracket if we experience serious range problems.

It appears that the Si-Tex radar installation involves putting a bracket on the mast and putting the radar on the bracket. This involves hanging 20’ above the deck and using power tools without dropping anything into the river. Getting things level seems challenging, but not impossible. Maybe I can tape the level to the platform so it doesn’t fall off.

Once the radar’s up there, we have to figure out how to run a wire down the inside of the mast, through the deck, and to an interface box between radar and chart plotter. This appears to involve drilling holes in the mast and dropping a string with a lead weight to help fish the wire down through the mast. I’ve put waterproof clamshells on the deck before; that’s not too hard. I was looking at Creola’s aft deck: they’ve got at least three separate wire bundles coming out of their mizzen and going through clamshells into the aft cabin.

The paperwork sure seems simple enough. We have a number of spare circuit breakers that can be used for radar. An on-off switch is required, also. None of it seems too daunting. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there’s some subtlety to this.

Update

The crew of Indefatigable shared the Practical Sailor AIS comparisons. That was helpful and got me started down the road to this report:

http://www.milltechmarine.com/customer_center/pbo_ais_test_jan.pdf

Wow. That’s a detailed blow-by-blow comparison. Nice.

Entertainment

Not related to safety or sailing, but still a priority for Red Ranger. Also, it’s something we’d like to do while we’ve got a few weeks with West Marine and Radio Shack less than ½ mile away.

We have a doddering old marine cassette player. Cassette. It has an auxiliary input wire that we can plug into a computer or an iPhone to play music. But there’s also a battery issue. The audio system (such as it is) draws little power. Leaving a computer running, however, brutalizes the batteries. Yes, we can use an iPhone, which is somewhat more thrifty, but our waterproof cases make this a bit awkward.

Last night, for example, the house bank slipped to 12.0 V. Too many rainy, cloudy days in a row. At 12.0V the inverter starts turning on it’s warning lights. The little 12V-to-USB device we use at the nav station stopped working. We haven’t run the engine in two weeks.  I don’t want to break out the generator in the marina. And shore power isn’t built into the slip fees; we have to pay for each kilowatt-hour used.

Liquid Therapy uses a Bluetooth interface for their entertainment system. That’s very, very nice. Further, most modern music systems can read from a  USB drive, so we can “burn” a “mix-tape” of songs, and plug that into the stereo without having to leave anything else running but the music.

A CD was about 600Mb. A 4Gb USB drive, then, is over 6 CD’s worth of music. Most of the day without a repeat.

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We think we’ve found what we want. And we think we found a place to put it that frees up some storage.

DIN vs. non-DIN

There are, of course, a kajillion and a half products. We don’t — strictly speaking — need a marine system, since the stereo will be safely below decks. But. It seems prudent to focus on marine instead of automotive.

West Marine, Defender and Amazon have lists of stuff. Lists. How to filter?

I used amazon.com to filter. Not for a particularly good reason, but they had a tidy list; less than a dozen products, not a kajillion and a half.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=marine+stereo+bluetooth+xm

It turns out that mounting becomes one of the serious decision factors. Not all marine stereos have a sensible gimbal mounting bracket available. Too many are DIN format units that have a sleeve that mounts into automotive-style trim. Way too many. Far, far too many.

For example, I really liked the Clarion M502 which is described as “Mechanism-Free” — no moving parts — no CD, no DVD, no cassette. However. I couldn’t figure out how to mount it; Clarion doesn’t seem to make a handy gimbal for it; I worry about buying a Jensen “universal” gimbal mount for DIN-style stereos. How do I know everything will fit together? What if the Clarion or Jensen aren’t totally standard? 

The Polyplanar MRD85i fits the bill with respect to Bluetooth and a gimbal mount.

But wait, there’s more...

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The Fusion MS-IP700i on the Amazon result set is over-the-top. Fusion, however, makes a million marine stereos. This further line of research lead us to what looks like a solution to the entertainment problem.

Enter the Fusion MS-RA205. This is not a DIN automotive-style unit; it has a more sensible panel mount. It has an add-on for Bluetooth (the MS-BT200).

It has a bunch of other features that aren’t relevant. The form factor makes this a total winner.

New Holes

The faceplate is somewhat smaller than DIN automotive faceplate, so we have some additional flexibility in our installation. All we need to do is find a space the right size for the face place.

While cutting yet more holes in the teak is not the best idea, there’s a void behind the chart table that’s available. The current location for the stereo is bothersome because (a) it blocks off a few cubic inches of space we’d like to use; (b) it’s behind a door that we have to open to turn it on; and (c) we have a silly wire that randomly hangs out of a cabinet.

A little quality time with the Fein multi-master should create the minimal hole. Four screws and we can mount the stereo in a better spot. It’s only a few inches from the current location, so the wires just might reach without a lot of painful rework.

Merry Christmas from Red Ranger

Christmas Day 2013 on Red Ranger.

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Our stockings were hung in the cockpit with care — Dark Chocolate Oranges!

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The Bar is Open — Bloody Mary Fixings

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Christmas Waffles — A tradition that may not last much longer

The iTunes Christmas Mix in on shuffle. 

It should warm up from 4°C to almost 16°C (60’s) giving us a proper Florida winter day.

Last night we joined a lovely Christmas Eve service at the Avondale, UMC. It’s a half-hour walk toward downtown. 

I still have some shopping to do. Really. Since we’re not going to see the kids until later in January, we’ve kind of skipped the official money-spending part of the holiday.

We’re looking at replacing our ancient cassette player with something a little easier to integrate with. Something that has a Bluetooth iPod/iPad/iMac interface. We like the idea of wireless.

Plus there’s the Si-Tex radar that goes with our Standard Horizon chart plotter. That’s a bigger and more expensive shopping operation.

We’d really like a new suite of B&G instruments. Which might include a B&G radar. But that’s a mountain of money. And our current instruments do work. 

And. We’d like better solar powered deck-level lighting. A solar anchor light, for example, is highly recommended. We had two solar garden lights on the stern, but they died. The marine environment did them in. Salt water is like that.

Visitors and Jobs

Our friend Chris — from way back in the hazy past of high school — stopped by for the day. He was in Florida for a bunch of family-related things (weddings and some vacation and stuff.)

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Nothing more helpful than a steady, extra pair of hands to work on a fiddly little job. We look to keep our anchors lashed down solidly; but the lashing isn’t always enough security.

A few times, now, we’ve had an anchor jump out of its roller and chafe through it’s lashings.

Most recently, this happened when we were out in 6’ seas. See “Bail Out— Plan B — Abort Abort.” The line we used to keep the anchor from bouncing all around the bowsprit finally chafed through. CA suggested we use some wire rope that won’t easily chafe through.

Chris and I bought some clamps, cut some wire rope and didn’t drop a nut or a tool into the Ortega River. Total Victory.

Toe Rail

One of the Whitby Old Salts told us to wash our toe-rail once each year in a mixture of ammonia and water. It cleans the crud out of the teak’s pores, restores the color and improves the longevity of the wood.

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On the left is where CA scrubbed with ammonia and water: ½ c. ammonia in 1 gal. water. On the right is the grey toe rail with several years of salt and sun. Wow.

She’s doing all the external teak as fast as she can. What a difference.


JAX before Xmas

Started: 2 miles from ICW Mile 740, Marsh Island, 30°23.74′N 081°30.43′W

Docked: The Marina at Ortega Landing, 30°16.61′N 081°42.79′W

Log: 19.4 nm. Time 4 hr. Engine 4 hr.


What a hair-raising, sphincter clenching morning here in Jacksonville. Never been here before. Even though — technically — we live just down the road in Green Cove Springs.

The Main Street Bridge schedule was a bafflement to the City of Jacksonville receptionist. She told us it was under repair. It was open from 09:00 to 10:00 and from 14:00 to 15:00. We thundered up the St. John’s river at hull speed, glued to our ETA timer trying to make it by 10:00.

For the first part of the trip, we had good flood tide current helping us along. But that peters out the further you get from the ocean. By the time you’re in downtown Jacksonville, the current is nil.

Once we could see the bridge — and the bridge tender could see us — we could beg them to hold for us, since we’d only delay them about 5 minutes.

We came roaring around Commodore Pt., only to see that the bridge was already closed. 

Already Closed!

Okay.

Breathe.

We can go about a mile back down river to Exchange Island; drop the hook and wait until 14:00. We have a bailout plan. 

CA calls the bridge on VHF 9. 

“Main Street Bridge, what’s your next scheduled opening?”

“We open on demand. It only takes a few minutes. Come right on up cap’n.”

What? Not under repair?

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That’s great!

Too bad the city receptionist has no clue. But good for us.

The Main Street bridge is a lift bridge, not a swing or bascule. So there’s this awkward problem of us not being able to judge how “open” it is. A swing or a bascule shows clear air above the channel. A lift bridge has the span hanging up there in space.

I’m getting better at judging the speed of swing bridges, and I can sometimes slip through right as it reaches fully open. I’m a little less good at bascules. I like to slip through quick so that the cars aren’t stopped forever and ever waiting for us.

About the time we realized we had no idea what was going on, the bridge tender said he had it up to 70’ and we should “give her a jingle.” 

Cool! Thanks!

Bridge Two of Three

Once through the Main Street lift bridge, the next obstacle, about 650 yards away, is a railroad bridge. Which is closed. Blocking boat traffic.

The view is awful. There’s a huge concrete fixed bridge over the top of things, so it’s hard to tell where the opening in the railroad bridge is supposed to be. It’s behind the big bridge's fenders, out of sight from the Main Street bridge, way over on the NW side of the channel.

So we circled between the two bridges. And circled. And wondered what was going on. 650 yards is plenty of room for Red Ranger to orbit. Thank goodness there was only us. More than a few boats and it would become a zoo.

Maybe the “under repair” was the railroad bridge? Maybe it was only open until 10:00? If so, were we stuck between the two bridges, driving in a  tiny circle until 14:00?

The Jacksonville Waterfront is there. We could tie up at Hooters. Or Finn McCools. Have some lunch. Shove off in time for the railroad bridge to open.

The guide book says “Trains cross relatively frequently, all at slow speed.” 

There’s no train in site, of course. Has it just passed? Or is it coming?

About the time we decided to go really close to the railroad bridge to try and read the phone number on the sign board, we heard an ominous grinding noise. The bridge started moving.

Cool! It was opening!

Bridge Three and the Mud Flats

Okay. Now we have about a ½ hr. trip down to the Ortega River and the prestigious Marina at Ortega Landing. With condos and a pool and laundry and a two block walk to Publix. And Wi-Fi. And Fresh Water. And Pump Outs.

The first 20 minutes up the St. John’s are delightful. 

The next 20 are awful.

The Ortega river is blocked by a shoal. It’s a 1¼ nm stretch of water that’s between 7 and 11 feet deep. The entrance to the river is charted at 4’-6’. That means one false move and we’re aground. We’re at high tide, so there’s no waiting to get floated off. If we ground, we have to launch Scout and kedge off whatever we’re on.

Screen Grab with Annotation

There are some small aids to navigation. A day board is out in the middle of the mudflats. Not shown on any chart. It was red. We kept it on our right.

Once we got to the mouth of the river, there was a nun, a green day board and a can to guide us into not horribly shallow water. 

The bridge dates from the 20’s. It has a span that’s all of 20’ across. It’s very cute. It opens super fast, since it’s so small.

I completely flub my turn for backing in. It took CA, two dock hands and our new neighbor, Bill, to get us wrestled into the slip. I was going too fast, and should have circled once to bleed some speed. Throwing reverse and then trying to make a 90° turn doesn’t work out well. I did manage to prop-walk us most of the way around, but it felt ugly.

If we’re moving at about 1.5 kt or less, the correct order is to turn hard (two full turns of the wheel) and then hit reverse to prop walk around. Once Red Ranger’s close to aligned with the slip, the wheel has to have the two full turns carefully taken out. There’s little helm feel with the hydraulics so you can’t count on feeling a push against the rudder. Usually the wind (or current) has more influence than the prop, but it was dead calm today.

And here we are. Still drying out from Sunday’s drenching in the 4’-6’ seas.

Marsh Island — the value of experience

Started: ICW Mile 710, Cumberland Island, 30°45.943′N 081°28.329′W

Anchored: 2 miles from ICW Mile 740, Marsh Island, 30°23.74′N 081°30.43′W

Log: 31.2 nm. Time 5¼ hr. Engine 5¼ hr.


Yesterday we hiked Cumberland Island. I think we put in maybe 10K meters. CA thinks it might have been farther. We walked the Parallel Trail from the dock to Stafford Campground. It was delightful to do a little leg-stretching in the cool air.

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Today we motored through a tough bit of the ICW between Fernandina and the St. John’s River. Last year, we ran aground twice in that stretch. It’s not well marked, the shoals are shifting very quickly.

This year, we managed to handle it much more smoothly.


Experience, right?

Yes, but not merely our experience.

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It’s the use of the Active Captain app on the iPad coupled with a Dual XGPS150A GPS antenna that does it. The Active Captain database provides us details of local knowledge about the shoals and how to traverse the area.

CA reads the various comments, sorts the hogwash from the useful stuff, and recommends a course. Wonderful to have combined wisdom (and some garbage of limited value) from other folks who’ve transited the area and shared their experiences. 

Last year I was sort of able to drop to marks to indicate problems. I wasn’t smart enough to drop marks showing the solutions. Duh. This year, I dropped marks in the deep water areas that we found. Next year, I’ll know where to go — drive over the marks I left.

Another Example

Another example of our experience not really being all that interesting was today’s fabulous tides. I sort of looked over the tides for today. I have a nice tide app on my phone that shows heights, but not currents. It showed high tide around 10-ish. Active Captain shows both heights and currents.

I didn’t look closely at the currents for the whole 30 mile stretch of ICW. I think that people who know the waters can tell where the ebbs and floods start and stop. I have no clue. And there’s no summary. It’s a lot of details for each tide station along the way.

But this morning, we rode the flood up the S. Amelia river, and then rode the ebb down the Saw Pit and Sister Creek to the St. John’s river like we knew what we were doing. It was breath-taking. We were doing 7+ knots in places with Mr. Leman just sort of idling along.

If only I could plan that kind of thing.

Now we’re on the hook in a wide spot on the St. John’s river. Tomorrow morning the tide should be flooding in the morning, giving as a healthy push for the next 20 miles to Jacksonville and the Ortega River.

Equipment Failures

Up until a few minutes ago, I thought our forward range light had failed. I intensely dislike the little Perko 1331 Steaming Light. I assume there’s some clever way to get the bulb and the reflector into the rubber framework, but when you’re hanging 25’ above the deck, and don’t want to risk dropping everything, it’s right painful to work with.

I think I’d like to replace it with some kind of “Masthead Combo Light:” a forward steaming/range light plus a light that shines down on the foredeck. This allows me to also replace a light that hangs underneath the spreader — if I can rearrange the wiring. The really cool LED masthead lights are amazingly expensive: $200 for a cheap one to $550 for an inexplicably expensive one. But if I get a 31mm festoon LED bulb ($30) maybe that’s good enough.

In this case, there are two problems. First, the darn thing is feeble. Not very bright at all. Second, you have to remember to turn it on when you turn the running lights on. And off when you turn the masthead tricolor on. 

I forgot to turn on the running light, causing me to wonder why it wasn’t working during my late-night watch.

I get these watches:

  • 16:00 to 20:00. This includes sunset and the associated prep for night ops: lights on, sails reduced. 
  • midnight to 04:00. Mostly this involves patiently watching miles tick by.
  • 08:00 to noon-ish. This may run past noon, depending on lunch prep.

CA gets these watches:

  • noon-ish to 16:00. 
  • 20:00 to 24:00. This, too, involves patiently watching miles tick by. We try to minimize sail handling at night.
  • 04:00 to 08:00 so she can enjoy dawn at sea. 

She also does meal prep, so she puts in more hours awake than I do.

Since we’ve only done this about seven times, we’re not completely sure what we’re doing. We’re trying to get it to be a simple, regular, boring thing we do. 

Our Macerator pump doesn’t seem to work. It spins. It makes a lot of noise. But the holding tank level doesn’t go down. We tried it when we were off shore. Every few hours we gave it another spin to see if the clog had passed through. Nothing.

The previous failure modes had been (1) no noise at all and (2) jammed and unable to turn. The difference between the two ways of not making noise was subtle. I took the old pump apart and found that the parts had corroded enough that the macerator assembly had fallen apart and couldn’t be reattached. The replacement pump also didn’t run. We left the seacock open until enough water had sloshed around that the hoses were clear enough that the pump could run. 

I think that means I have to ream out (or replace) the hose from holding tank to pump. I’m not sure how to get access to it. It might involve removing the holding tank to get at the fittings. I think they’re accessible under the hanging locker behind the companionway ladder.

The problem with holding tank and macerator isn’t so much the yuck factor. There is a big yuck factor. More is the testing problem. We can’t test the macerator until we're three miles off shore. 

Cumberland Island

Started: 31°21.414′N 80°55.513′W

Anchored: ICW Mile 710, Cumberland Island, 30°45.943′N 081°28.329′W

Log: 58 nm. Time 9½  hr. Engine 9½ hr.


We spent the night under a full moon, lighting the ocean all around us. Full main and stays’l, and engine at idle speed pushing us along at 6.2 knots.

Wind picked up a bit, and the last two hours involved some 3’-4’ chop: but it was daylight and we were following the buoys up to an anchorage we used last year behind Cumberland Island.

We even had a fair tide coming in this morning. Fair tide leaving. Perfect Weather. Full Moon.

Wow. 

Time to invest some fresh water in a little washing up. Tomorrow we’ll launch the dinghy and stretch our legs. Thursday or Friday we’ll head off to Fernandina Beach for a few days.

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Eventually, we want to get to Jacksonville. 

It’s 23 miles to the St. John’s River. That’s 5 hours or so; add an hour at each end to get out and get in, and we might be able sail outside, avoiding the ICW shallows. 

This sounds good until we look at the tides. At the end of this week, tide is high at mid-day, and ebbing out in the afternoon. We’d be fighting the ebb tide into the St. John’s river. 

If we go down the ICW instead, we have a rising tide in the morning which helps us get through the shallows in fine style. And at 5.5 knots, we’d arrive at the St. John’s river by about well, one-ish in the afternoon. Rising tide the whole way means that if we bump something — as we did last year — we’d get floated off as the tide came in.

I think we’re going to rent some dock space in Jacksonville so we can do some holiday visiting.

After that, St. Augustine. That part if the ICW has no real drama. It’s the stretch between St. A and Fernandina which is more like Georgia Mudflats than properly dredged and maintained ICW.

When we get Red Ranger to St. Augustine, we will have run out of concrete plans. We want to see Vero Beach. And maybe go back to the Bahamas. Maybe see the keys. Maybe. We don’t really know what. Other than get out of the cold.

Year 2, Week 14, Trudging Along

Started: Big Bay Creek, 39°29.790′N 80°19.523′W

Midnight: 31°21.414′N 80°55.513′W

Log: 83 nm. Time 16 ¾ hr. Engine 14 ¾ hr.


After getting a thorough ass-whooping yesterday, today’s weather promises to be the polar opposite. Seas 2-3’ Winds 10-15 kts dropping away to nothing.

Yesterday, we were happy to be able to hold onto the boat. 

This morning we drifted down the S. Edisto river on the ebb tide. Just like real sailors. We hoisted sails and sailed out into the Atlantic under yankee, main and mizzen. For the first two hours this morning, we were on time to arrive in St. Mary’s GA during daylight hours. 

Sailing the Whole Way. We might just be able to do it.

We can move around comfortably, today; work on small projects. Put paper towels between the pages of important guide books that got soaked yesterday, for example. Update our cruising log; write blog posts.

We could — if we wanted to put the hammer down — make St. John’s river under motor sail. Indeed, we could likely make St. Augustine if we kept the speed up.

For a while it looked like were were going to sail to St. Mary’s. The wind was fair and strong enough to carry us there is comfort. 

But.

As noted elsewhere: there are three kinds of wind.

Yesterday was too much. About 10:30 it dropped away to too little. Thank God it’s not the wrong direction.

We motor-sailed the rest of the day. To keep the speed above 1.8 knots, all we needed to do was idle. So Mr. Lehman slugged along at idle speed. Around 1600 we brought the RPM’s up a hair to keep our arrival in St. Mary’s before noon. 

The full moon rose. Venus left a river of light across the ocean as it set. Mars rose with a little less fanfare.

Wow.

Bail Out — Plan B — Abort Abort

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

Anchored: 10 miles from ICW Mile 505, Big Bay Creek, 39°29.790′N 80°19.523′W

Log: 56.5 nm. Time 10 hr. Engine 10 hr. Fuel 35 gal.


Sunday’s weather promised to be “sporty” in the morning, but it appeared likely to back off in the afternoon. We thought we could manage the morning sportiness. 

We picked up 30.5 gallons of diesel fuel at the Charleston Harbor Marina. It was gray and rainy, but we were ready to take on the North Atlantic Ocean.

We roared out the Charleston inlet at 10.5 knots. Good current. Good wind. It was an auspicious start to a terrible day.

The weather was sporty: too sporty for the crew of the Red Ranger. The Commodore was heaving chunks into the galley sink while trying to make lunch. Her call? "Fuggedaboudit. We’re in over our heads. Pick a daysail destination. I can’t stand my watch and you can’t single-hand for 24 hours.”

Seas? 4-6’ That’s big. That’s breaking over the bowsprit big. That’s water running down the deck in volumes rarely seen outside Hurricane Irene. That’s a new leaks discovered from the working of the boat on starboard tack and the huge volumes of water everywhere.

Wind? 15-20 knots, gusting higher. Two reefs in the main reduce the fear factor. If we’d used the yankee, we might have done well, but it left us heeled well over and I was worried about a really big gust. Dialing back to the much smaller stays’l left us riding more upright, but also much slower.

Rig and Equipment? Stellar. Everything (except the crew) came through with high marks. Well. We did find two new leaks in these conditions.

We motor-sailed until about 12:30 when the Commodore ordered a new destination. I hoped for a place call Observatory Beach up the St. Helena Sound. This looked like a good anchorage, according to Active Captain. It’s not too far from the ICW, so other folks call it the 

When we turned W — into the wind — to make for the mark, I figured out that we wouldn’t get that far before dark. So, even our primary bailout was too far. 

Time for the secondary bailout.

We went up the S. Edisto River to Big Bay Creek. This was an Active Captain anchorage, and well off the beaten ICW track. It was probably a  beautiful salt marsh: we saw approximately none of it. We were cold and tired and happy to have the hook down. After a hot dinner we collapsed in our berth. 

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I wished I’d taken some video. Spectacular. Scary.

Bonus. Our lifetime distance counter finally advanced from 5195.0 to 5151.5. That works again. More details to log.

Three Kinds of Wind

There are three kinds of wind: too little, too much and the wrong direction.

Last Thursday was too much wind. We waited. Friday to Saturday was forecast to be the wrong direction. We’re waiting.

We decided to walk the 2+ miles to the bus stop and take the #11 bus downtown. A marina staff member dropped us off at the bus stop, which was right nice. 

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Data Management

We had lunch and a Coastal Hop Art IPA at the Charleston Brew House and had Freehouse IPA at the Closed For Business. We said our goodbyes to Charleston. We stopped in to a few shops. The music store had a wall of Ukuleles. CA said we didn’t need another.

The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is for winds 5-10 kt up here and 10 kt down in Florida. At those wind speeds, the direction no longer matters. Light air can be fun sailing when you’re just out for the day and there’s no danger of arriving at the destination after dark. For day sailing, we can rig the mizzen stays’l and fool around using the pole to hold the yankee out. When we have to make some miles before the next sunset, we have to motor.

Flat seas are fun. But. We’d like to sail rather than burn diesel for 24 solid hours. That leaves us Sunday to Monday. Which looks good. Really good. Worth the wait.

Up here in Zone 350 (Charleston)

Sun: W winds 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. Showers likely... Mainly in the morning. 

Sun Night: N winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Mon: N winds 5 to 10 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

And down in Zone 450 (Fernandina)

Sunday: Northwest winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. Widespread showers and isolated thunderstorms in the morning...then isolated showers in the afternoon.

Sunday Night: Northwest winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop.

Monday: North winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Inland waters a light chop. 

We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll ease out of the slip tomorrow, Sunday, at daybreak, bound for St. Mary’s Georgia.

Stay tuned.

Is the Weather Window Closed?

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Yesterday’s forecasts looked good for a run down the coast. We took on water, cleaned up, did laundry showered. We had a final checklist for this morning’s departure.

Today…

Well. It was a difficult decision to make. And there’s always the regrets after making the decision.

Did I do the right thing? Shouldn’t we be heading south? 

The pre-dawn conditions were nice. Cold, but calm up here on the Cooper river. Not indicative of conditions at sea.

This morning’s weather for AMZ350:

Small Craft Advisory

...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS AFTERNOON……

Today: N winds 15 to 20 kt with gusts to 25 kt. Seas 4 to 5 ft.

Tonight: N winds 15 kt...becoming NE 10 to 15 kt after midnight. Seas 3 to 4 ft.

Fri: NE winds 10 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

That means we just have to gut it out through the rest of the daylight hours. We have to fight through gusts of 25. That’s a matter of second reef in the main, and stays’l.  We’ve done that kind of thing before. It’s manageable. It’s actually fun sailing.

If we fight through the day, tonight it will settle down a bit and tomorrow will be very nice.

The other end of the trip in St. Mary’s (AMZ450) looks like this:

Today: North winds 20 knots. Seas 4 to 6 feet. Inland waters choppy. Isolated showers in the morning.

Tonight: Northeast winds 15 knots. Seas 4 to 6 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. 

Friday: East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a light chop. Isolated showers in the afternoon.

The 4-6 feet part of that part means a right unpleasant trip in the early morning hours of darkness.

If Friday is so nice, why not leave then? Because Saturday’s arrival will be nasty. Here’s St. Mary’s forecast for Saturday.

Saturday: South winds 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.

Bashing into the wind? No thanks.

We’re paid in full for another two weeks. Why rush out of here? Why not head south as quickly as possible?

We’re looking closely at Sunday-Monday and possibly Monday-Tuesday as the next weather window.

Cleaning and Watching

Condensation was everywhere. Everywhere. Cold days and colder nights means water running down the inside of the boat. Running. Rivulets. The bilge pump had to run. Amazing amounts of condensation.

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CA took the entire aft cabin apart. 

She wiped down everything with vinegar water to reduce the mildew growth. Took everything out of the bins and cupboards and gave it all a thorough airing.

Years ago, she’d been told to use a pad under the cushions to prevent condensation from soaking into the fabric.

That was the greatest suggestion ever. Ever.

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She used a roll of Hypervent to keep the cushions dry, dry, dry. Do not leave home without it.

Weather Watch

If we go in jumps, we only care about one day’s forecast. If, however, we get two days in a row of good weather, we can go all the way to St. Mary’s.

Zone 350 (Charleston) says this.

Wed: NE winds 15 to 20 kt...diminishing to 10 to 15 kt in the afternoon. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Wed Night: N winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft. 

Thu: N winds 15 to 20 kt with gusts to 25 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft... Building to 4 to 5 ft in the afternoon. 

Thu Night: N winds 15 to 20 kt...becoming NE 10 to 15 kt after midnight. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Fri: NE winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Wednesday is a good day sail day. Blustery but settling down. Thursday is a good anchoring day. Or a good day to motor along the ICW to Beaufort. Friday would be another good sailing day.

But. Wednesday night is a great sailing night. How will Wednesday night’s weather track down the coast to St. Mary’s?

Spoiler alert: Skip down to zone 450 and read Thursday’s arrival weather. Seas 5’ to 7’? Winds 20? Seriously? No thanks.

Zone 352 (down do Savannah) says this.

Wed: NE winds 15 to 20 kt...diminishing to 10 to 15 kt in the afternoon. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A slight chance of showers in the afternoon. 

Wed Night: N winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft... Subsiding to 2 ft after midnight. A slight chance of showers in the evening. 

Thu: N winds 15 kt. Seas 2 to 3 ft...building to 3 to 4 ft in the afternoon. 

Thu Night: NE winds 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Fri: NE winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. 

Fri Night: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

Zone 354 (down to Brunswick) says this.

Wed: NE winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 4 to 5 ft... Subsiding to 3 to 4 ft in the afternoon. A slight chance of showers in the afternoon. 

Wed Night: N winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 ft. A slight chance of showers in the evening. 

Thu: N winds 15 kt with gusts to 20 kt. Seas 3 ft...building to 4 ft in the afternoon. 

Thu Night: N winds 15 to 20 kt...becoming NE 10 to 15 kt after midnight. Seas 4 to 5 ft...subsiding to 3 to 4 ft after midnight. 

Fri: NE winds 10 to 15 kt. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A slight chance of showers. 

Zone 450 (Down to St. Mary’s) says this, however.

Wednesday: Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers in the morning... Then scattered showers in the afternoon.

Wednesday Night: North winds 15 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop. Scattered showers in the evening...then isolated showers after midnight.

Thursday: North winds 20 knots. Seas 5 to 7 feet. Inland waters choppy. 

Thursday Night: Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 5 to 7 feet. Inland waters choppy.

Friday: East winds 15 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Inland waters a moderate chop.

So Wednesday-Thursday is out for arrival in St. Mary’s because Thursday morning looks to be perfectly awful.

What about Thursday-Friday? Hrm.

Zone 354 says seas subsiding from 4’-5' down to 3’-4'. The adjacent zone, 450, says 5’-7' over night and then 3’-5' the next morning. 

They sort-of agree that the seas will be flattening out on Friday. Maybe that’s the window we’re looking for Thursday to Friday.

Winter Weather Window

Since we’re looking at a series of day trips from here to Jacksonville, we’re not looking for big weather windows. We think we can deal with some sail-and-then-wait cycles.

We can’t really dawdle too much longer. We had a great time with Venerable Great Aunt Diane. We need to move South.

Some of the anchorages look like they’re just deep spots on the marsh. Not much protection in a real blow. But the bigger concern is the cold rather than wind and rain and generally icky weather.

Later this week it will drop down to 3°C: painfully cold. If we get fuel tomorrow afternoon, then we can leave any time starting Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, for example, looks like this.

Wed: NE winds 15 to 20 kt...diminishing to 10 to 15 kt in the afternoon. Seas 3 to 4 ft. A chance of showers... Mainly in the afternoon

Not ideal; ideal would be flatter seas. But manageable to get us to the S. Edisto River (32°29.760'N 080°19.535’W) or Observatory Beach (32°27.469'N 080°30.739'W). These are about 35 nm away. Just six hours of sailing in 3’-4’ seas. 

From there, we think we go up river to Beaufort for Thursday and perhaps Friday. We’ll have to see what the anchorages there are like. Weather beyond Wednesday is just a guess, but it should warm up and high pressure may build into the area giving us winds from the NE to help us down the coast.

Peculiar Failure Modes

Two very odd failure modes this week.

The freshwater pump corked off. While we have a guest aboard. Venerable Great Aunt Diane was perfectly happy using the hand pump until we could sort out the pressure water system.

IMG_2086

The backbone of the freshwater system is a Jabsco diaphragm pump under the nav station. It might be a 36950-2000. It feeds the filter and pressure accumulator.


Symptom One

The initial failure mode was a tripped circuit breaker.

“Who turned off the freshwater pump?” The Commodore asked. The breaker panel is in a place where it can get bumped, so casually flinging things on the workbench/parts locker can sometimes bump a breaker.

As the day progressed, the breaker was found in the off position several more times. Not good.

Symptom Two

Eventually, we flipped the breaker on and watched the ammeter. Amps went from a normal 4 or so while the pump was running to 8 after the pump stopped. Then the amps grew, and grew until the breaker tripped.

Okay. 

Breathe.

Remain Calm.

We have over 200 gallons of water and a hand pump. We’re tied to a dock. It’s all good. 

But.

What’s tripping the breaker? Clearly the motor’s getting jammed. Jammed against what? The obvious answer is that the pressure sensor has failed. The motor runs until it cannot turn again and then trips the circuit breaker because it’s jammed.

There’s a remote possibility that a bare wire is somehow shorting after the motor runs for bit. But that makes little sense. The wire gets wrapped around something, shorts out the motor and the magically unwraps itself so we can run the motor again?

At this point, it looks like I’m going to have to order a pressure sensor for that pump housing. It might be simpler to replace the entire pump. I have two spare pump bodies. But no spare pressure sensor.

Hands On

Next day, with plenty of daylight, and the crew out of the galley, I could dig around under the nav station, where the pump sits. It’s right awkward to work there. So I pulled the pump free of its rubber cushion feet so I could get a good look at it.

I rotated the belt manually and the pump pumped.  Odd.  It’s supposed to be jammed.

I turned the breaker on and it pumped. Then stopped. Amps climbed. Breaker tripped.

I picked up the pump, spun the belt and it pumped. 

The pressure’s not “too high”. It’s not very high at all. It’s barely at the normal 40 PSI for the accumulator tank.

Symptom Three

The belt was not centered on the big cog. So I rotated the pump, sliding the belt onto the big cog.

Then I noticed the actual problem.

The little cog on the electric motor was loose. Loose enough that I could slide it off the end of the shaft.

Weird.

A few moments with a hex key and it’s on good and tight. Put the pump back into place and everything seems to be running like normal. Maybe even better. The pump seems quieter. And it seems to be running less.

Instrument Panel Weirdness

We have Datamarine instruments. Part of the complete Datamarine package is an A180 control panel to turn on night light mode for the cockpit instruments. It also has a distance counter that shows the number 51950 and has always shown that number. It’s never changed. 

IMG_2087

We’re not totally surprised that the number has changed much, the distance log doesn’t work reliably, either. It gets gummed up with algae and stops counting.

But it hasn’t changed at all. At all.

Looking in the documentation folder, I found the Datamarine A180 book, and it had the wiring for the little wiring block. Looking up inside the navstation cupboard there’s a loose wire with a spade terminal floating around near the wiring block.

Aha.

That’s the missing wire that might make the log distances register in the overall distance meter. 

Why did the wire drop off?

It appears that there’s no screw in one spot on the wiring block.

IMG_2084

Cool. Root around in the screw drawer. Get out some screw drivers. And…

The screw isn’t missing.

The screw head is missing. The screw’s still there. How does a head fall off? 

I had to take a pair of needle-nose pliers and slowly unscrew the shaft of the screw from the terminal block. It’s sort of like a set screw without a place to insert a hex key.

Once the old screw’s mortal remains were out, it’s a matter of putting a new screw plus the loose wire in. We’ll see what happens when we actually move. Maybe we’ll start accumulating life-time operating miles.

That would be cool.

Grand Totals

I tallied 2,935 miles last year. The years before that were 531 miles and 280 miles. And, of course, I don’t know how long this gizmo has been disconnected, so we could put a little sticker under the distance saying “add 3,800”. Is that right? 

It’s likely that Red Ranger has been over 10,000 miles in her life. I know she went to the Bahamas once under the previous owner. That’s good for 3,000 miles. If the previous owner racked up 500 miles a year for the next 20 years, then the 51950 on the counter might mean 15,195.0 miles.

[It most certainly doesn’t mean 51,950 miles; that’s 1,700 miles a year every year for thirty years. That’s 340 hours every year at 5 knots. That would add up to 10,000 hours on the engine.]

The engine hour meter on the binnacle shows 2300 hours. If every hour was motoring at 5 knots, that could explain more than 11,000 miles. Sailing for 4,000 miles, 25% of the time, is certainly possible on the Chesapeake.

So I think the distance should say “Add 13,800”. 

Charleston and Warmer Weather

Enjoying Charleston.

Enjoying warmer weather. The heaters aren’t running. Hatches are open.

We could go sailing and see the Charleston Waterfront. 

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Wind out of the N meant a great beam reach across the harbor. We motored up the Ashley to see the mega-dock; we didn’t think we could short tack against a current. Even if we had a crew of four or more to pull headsails around, beating into a current is not something Red Ranger does well.

We drifted down to Fort Sumter as the wind sort of died away. We tried to beat back up the Cooper river, but the current (3.2kt) was way faster than our ability to sail in light air.

Enjoyed a late Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes and a cold broccoli mushroom salad.

Charleston

Hung around with the crew of Baccalieu yesterday. They got beat up heading south from Beaufort and decided to stop in to Charleston and wait for the bad weather to pass.

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They’ve been following some other boats south — boats which have started into the South Carolina and Georgia part of the ICW. The other boats have had some bad things to say about salt marshes, shallow rivers and huge tidal swings. We agree: sail outside from here south.

I think the trip south can be done in a series of day sails. Or one big overnight to St. Mary’s.

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Dock space isn’t free here. So we have to manage our budget wisely. But we’d rather wait for some good weather and jump outside than struggle down the shallow rivers.

Venerable Great Aunt Diane

Family visit in Charleston. The Venerable Great Aunt has taken up residence in the V-berth.

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We’re already running low on martini olives, red wine, bourbon, the good coffee and really good cheese. 

Besides having good taste in food and drink, she has a car. We can restock all the good stuff we kept in reserve for guests.

Yesterday we topped off the water tanks. 

Today, I put almost three pints of water into the batteries. The battery filler is way, way cool. It’s been about three months. From this one data point it appears that we’re using about a pint of water each month.

I’ll ramp up the cycle and put water in every month to gather some more data.

CA and the VGA Diane restocked cheese, olives, and other galley stores.

Tomorrow, if the weather continues to improve, I may look at the windlass. Or we may head off to Charleston to see the sights.

Finished Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. Great stuff. A good read-aloud because there aren’t too many characters. When you’re reading this note that Spook and Sazed will need distinctive regional accents. Sazed has many friends and relations, so you really have to nail a Terrismen accent. I won’t tip it too much, but you need to keep a regional accent or two in reserve for characters that develop in book two and book three. A two-hankie ending. It’s not Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire with innumerable characters, many of whom die.

  © Steven Lott 2016