Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29, 2008.

It’s Sunday night and we’ve been here in Manteo for 2 days. I’m not real sure where to begin, so I’ll start with the town,
which is a neat old time town which has been revitalized, so to speak. There are lots of really awesome old buildings sporting great little stores, boutiques, art galleries etc. There’s a free town dock for daytime tie-ups, which is really cool. We’re out at anchor so we use the dock for the dinghy but it’s nice to see a town that has a space for boats to come in and spend the day in town without having to pay for a marina. It’s easy to walk the dogs here and the town is wired so there’s free wifi as well. There are lots of places to eat and drink along with the touristy shops and even a great bookstore. Food shopping, laundry and a hardware store are all within a half mile. Manteo rocks.

The refrigeration has proven once again, to be an ongoing saga. After the last repairman (our third) left the boat the unit was not leaking refrigerant (knock wood) and once again cooling. What wasn’t apparent to us, since we were plugged in at the Small’s dock, was that the unit wasn’t cycling like it should be. Once we were back off the grid it became apparent that the unit was running practically non-stop, which is a battery killer.

After exhaustive research the probable cause revealed itself to us, the unit was probably overcharged with refrigerant. The reason why too little refrigerant or to much refrigerant is bad is just one of those headaches you have to overcome when dealing in the black art of refrigeration. The remedy, hopefully, is that a bit of refrigerant has to be bled off. Easy enough if you know what you’re doing, I might need a net, I’m pretty much clueless. The low side of the system is supposed to run at no more than 7 PSI and we’re assuming that we need to bleed some pressure off. Fine, but just how many PSI is a pssst, is it 1 PSI or 6 PSI, we don’t have refrigeration gauges so I have to guess.

The big danger is that if I bleed too much off, then I have to get the system recharged yet again. So we’ve been trying to round up a set of gauges to use as a crystal ball to see into these dark arts. We found a local NAPA on Google Maps and when I called the guy said he had 3 sets in the store and that they close at 1300 hours, its 1125, shit, Google maps show a 3 mile walk north.

If you’ve been a faithful reader then you know how Google Maps has screwed us twice. When you’re on foot it can be a major screwing. After those occurrences it was decided that before we trusted any directions from Google we would call ahead to confirm that they were correct. Evidently I didn’t get the memo. Because after walking 3+ miles in the 90 degree heat Christy called NAPA to see if we were getting close. It seems that Google was wrong yet again and we were now 6 miles from NAPA and it was 1215. F**k me. We started to backtrack south, and even tried to hitch a ride, but apparently we are not in the Bahamas anymore, people might have even thrown shit at us so we stopped in at a convenience store to grab a drink and see about calling a cab. One of the clerks took pity on us and loaded us into her car and drove us to NAPA. I hope she wins the lottery.

We arrived at NAPA at 1250 and were once again confronted by the witchcraft known as refrigeration. It seemed that the hose connections for auto refrigerant are different then any other type of connector. Marine refrigeration guys have a different style gauge, but we can’t find any marine gauges for sale within a 2 day walk. So now I have to reinvent the wheel and cobble together an adapter to make the auto gauges work on our boat. Well, call me Gepeto because we came up with a combination that would work. Since it was only a 3 mile walk across the surface of the sun back to the dinghy, we bought a gallon of oil to throw in my backpack for the trip. I thought I heard Christy say that we needed a case of oil…..not sure.

While walking Christy spotted these freshly planted trees. Do you think they were considering job security when they put them directly under the power lines? They'll be trimming those things every year until they die.

Evidently Christy was a little pissed that I had marched us off in the wrong direction because on the way back we were passing a grocery store and she decided we had to stop in and grab a few things. While in the market we did see a great sign that was hung in every checkout line. Steal from us huh?, the south is so much fun. Now with my 2 ton pack and an additional bag full of groceries we headed back to the boat. We did take the time to grab some air conditioning by perusing a bookstore and stopping for a light lunch.

Back at the boat I had to modify one of the adapters in order to attach the gauges. Once hooked into the system the gauge showed that the low side of the system still had 20 PSI even though I had given it the old pssst several times. Now that we’re enlightened by the gauges, it turned out that a psssssssssssst was needed and viola, the fridge seems to be working correctly. Gepeto, master of the dark arts, practitioner of the black science of refrigeration. Of course now that I’ve put this in print I realize I’m doomed.

While I was dealing with the fridge we became aware of a family in their speed boat making a nuisance of themselves. Alright, I can’t really blame the 4 kids and probably not Mom either. Dad was towing the kids, 2 at a time on a tube behind the boat. The bay that we’re anchored in is at least a mile wide and over 2 miles long but this guy thinks that the best place to try and cripple his children is within 80 feet of our anchored boat. We’re anchored just off the marina and his wake is rocking the crap out of the boats tied up in their slips and us as well.

They’re at it for about 20 minutes but we
board the dinghy and head off for a little “explore the creek by dinghy tour”. I figure by the time we get back they’ll be exhausted or one of the kids will have broken something and they’ll have gone home.

After we pass by the marina there’s a low bridge that we go under and into an ever narrowing creek. It’s real pretty and after 15 minutes we come to a tree that’s fallen across the stream so we turn around and head back.

As we’re approaching our boat, Speedboat Guy is headed towards our boat from the opposite direction, still dragging a float full of kids. Then he gets the brilliant idea to rocket through the gap between Veranda and the shoreline. This left him with the shore to port, Veranda to starboard and us in the dinghy headed right at him. So he veered towards the shore, I figure its time for a chat, so I turn towards shore as well. I stand up in the dinghy and scream at him to stop. Instead of slowing he waves me off and tries to cut back and blow between Veranda and us in the dink.

This is where that whole physics thing came into play. That’s right he forgot about the kids on the float. You’ve all seen that instance where a ski boat can use centrifugal force to make it seem that the skier is actually going to pass the boat. His turn was so abrupt as he dodged us that he hung his children out to dry so to speak, they were not going to clear our dink. His wife didn’t forget the kids and she screamed at him to stop. He stopped with his tow line under our dinghy and his kids on their float 2 feet from us.

That’s when it all went kinda grey for me. Ya know how they tell you that its important for you’re lungs to enrich your blood with oxygen and then the heart pumps it up to your brain? Well evidently most of the blood pumping to my head was stopping at my mouth to help feed the demand my wagging tongue was creating. I went off…….

He tried to start with “What’s your problem?”
I started with “You’re killing those people in the marina and making it miserable for us out here!”
He counters by spreading his arms and looking around saying “What, you see any No Wake signs out here?”
I countered with a quick, very loud monologue “You need a sign to tell you to use common sense? What about common courtesy?” Pointing at his kids bobbing at my feet “What about teaching responsibility, CAPTAIN?”
He mumbled something back that I couldn’t hear so then I went with “You got the whole fucking bay and this looks like the best place to be doing this, CAPTAIN?” Then came “Use some common sense, CAPTAIN” “Try and act like you’re responsible, CAPTAIN”

When somebody screws up and they know they screwed up, you throw in enough ultra sarcastic CAPTAINS it’s better than punching them in the testicles. Alright, maybe not better but it’s on a similar plane. I was aware of the children so I only dropped one F-Bomb so it was kinda like a surgical strike as well, very neat yet yielding his total capitulation. I should teach a class……

After I was done he towed his tube off to the far end of the bay and they went back to their merriment before retiring for the evening. Although, now with a better understanding of boating etiquette and consideration for those around them. Helping people is really very gratifying.

My work here is done so weather permitting, it’s off to Elizabeth City, NC in the morning.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 28, 2008.

We spent 3 nights in Ocracoke NC. The town’s a little beach town that depends on the tourist dollar. There’s also an incredible amount of history here. I’m not just talking about historical events I’m talking about family history.

Families have been here for generations. It seems that half the people here claim to be tenth or twelfth generation Ocracokconians (<~ might be a made up word). We were in one of the book stores and came across a book entitled The Genealogy and History of the O’Neil Family. The book was literally the size of the phone book. It must be easy to keep track of things like that when nobody ever moves away. It must make Thanksgiving a bitch though.

On our last night there we went out to dinner at a place called the Back Porch. Yep, that’s where you ate, on the porch. It was actually a very nice place that had seating inside for only a few couples, while the back porch was a huge multilevel screened in porch.

It was 90+ degrees and after walking a half mile in the sweltering heat I was all about an indoor table with some A/C and you can just imagine that Christy was in complete agreement. The hostess asked us if we would like to be seated inside or out on the porch, Christy said she would like the “coolest” table in the place (meaning A/C). To which she responded “trust me, you’ll love this” and I’m sure I remember her saying that the porch was much more comfortable, so she led us through the swinging doors to the porch. It was nice, with tables at different levels with ceiling fans overhead and with the breeze coming in through the screens, it seemed to be only about 84 degrees. It was bizarre as every time there was just a puff of breeze you could hear everyone on the porch gasp and appreciate the air.

We walked with a good sweat running and by the time dinner was over we were only glistening. We had some time to kill, so after dinner we went inside and had a drink at the air conditioned bar before heading out to the evening’s main event.

There’s a live theater here in town and every evening there is different entertainment scheduled. The night’s performers was a 4 person folk group that is pretty famous in this region of the country or at least this part of the county, oh alright, they're definitely big in town. There was a steel guitar, a fiddler, a rhythm guitarist and a base player.

They were wonderful and played a variety of music during the evening. It seems that these small communities have a history of entertaining themselves through music. It’s a great tradition that is alive and well on the Outer Banks. There’s live music everywhere as each generation of fresh faces take the stage. Oh, and we won the door prize which was a free CD!

There’s a big blow coming this weekend so we basically have 2 choices. We can stay in Ocracoke until Tuesday or we can head up to Manteo and hide there until then. A week in Ocracoke is a little much so we’re off to Manteo.

Manteo is a town on Roanoke Island, NC. If you remember your history the English dropped off some settlers and then forgot to come back and resupply them for 2 years. When supply ships finally did arrive they found the fort empty and no sign of struggle or survivors. In an interesting side note, some of the Native Americans in this area have blue eyes.

Anyway, Manteo it is. After Christy went to bed I did some late night navulating and decided that Manteo might not be a good idea. The charts all show a 12 mile system of channels with marked depths ranging from 3 to 5 feet in the shallow areas. So I went to bed without setting the alarm because we’re not goin’ there.

In the morning after we got up I showed Christy the charts and guide books. We have several sources and they all agreed, don’t go. But we are sure we know people who’ve done it so Christy called the harbor master in Manteo and he assured us that the channel had been dredged to a full 12 feet deep.

By the time I walked the dogs, it was already 0900 when we finally got underway for the 60 mile trip to Manteo. After pulling the anchor we left the harbor and then raised the mainsail while we waited for an inbound ferry to make its way through the shallow part of the channel. After he passed by we let out the genoa and were moving along at 5 knots in the light breeze.

Once clear of the channel we turned on our heading and found ourselves with the breeze, once again, coming straight over the stern. We ended up sailing wing and wing for about 10 miles until the wind started to build so much that it became dangerous. We were doing in the low eights with a rolling following sea threatening to collapse the genoa and refill it instantly in the brisk breeze. I decided that rather than risking exploding the genoa we would see what kind of progress we could make with just the mainsail alone.

The winds were now pretty steady at 20 knots so we found ourselves maintaining a little better than 6 knots with just the mainsail. We stayed configured like this for the next 30 miles and had a really pleasant day in spite of the building seas.

The only boat we encountered all day was another sailboat. We were running straight downwind and he was close hauled, fighting to windward. While we were sitting high and dry in bathing suits enjoying the pleasant sailing they were rail down, spray flying, dressed in foulies and hanging on. What a difference "point of sail" can make in your perspective on the days sail.

When it was time to turn into the channel we decided to drop the main as there didn’t seem to be enough room to maneuver and drop it once we were committed to the channel. The first leg of the channel was about 5 mile long and broadside to the running seas. So we rolled out about half the genoa to steady the boat until the sea state diminished.

We had the engine running but the sail was doing all the work speeding us down the channel. The channel was marked with red marks on our left and about half way down the channel we came to a section where there were 8 marks all within a hundred feet of our boat. There seemed to be a channel jutting off to starboard so that explained the red and green “center of channel” marker but after this mark it got very confusing as the channel markers were now “red right returning”.

The charts and the chartplotter all gave conflicting information but we were able to sort it out with binoculars and common sense. I guess when they dredged the channel the numbering and configuration had changed more than a bit as well.

Of course, a squall had to come through as we negotiated the narrowest section of the channel. The water on the windward side was only a foot deep so the wind driven waves weren’t a problem but the wind did have us crabbing our way from mark to mark as we moved along.

Finally, we arrived at the turning point for the anchorage. The chart shows Shallowbag Bay to be anything but hospitable for deep draft sailboats but it’s the only game in town. The chart showed 7 feet of water in one small section but you never really know until you get there what you’re gonna find. We’ve pulled into anchorages that looked so good on paper only to find that the area is covered with crab pots or there are already 4 boats in that little spot where you thought you were gonna drop the hook.

Its 1900 hours and fortunately there seems to be about 8 feet of water and we’re the only boat anchored here. There’s a small marina here and dog walking looks to be easy. We’ll see what town has to offer tomorrow as we've done enough for today.

We're anchored south of red # 10 fairly close to shore.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 24, 2008.

We’ve spent the last few days tied to the dock behind Ken & Carol’s house. It’s really a special treat for us to be there. The dogs have free run of their large wooded lot, while we have run of the house.

We’ve taken Ken’s car, out and about, and have ridden their bicycles all over town. I’m particularly fond of their big screen television with hundreds of channels to choose from. When we’re there we’re also absorbed right into the Small’s social schedule and have found ourselves in the company of several interesting couples. Oriental really is a kick ass little town. Many thanks to them for sharing their car, friends, town and home with us!

All good things must come to an end though. We had planned to leave yesterday morning but woke to a day of rain punctuated by one nasty storm cell after another. Thunder, lightning and heavy rain ruled the day so we decided to stay put.

This morning we woke to a beautiful day and after a splendid breakfast up at the Casa Small we were set to leave the dock. Whittaker Creek is a little shallow for our boat. There’s not really much of a tide, maybe an inch or three, but the wind driven surge plays a huge roll in our ability to get in and out of the creek.

When we arrived here we bumped bottom as we were turning around to tie up at their dock. The water was definitely an inch or two lower then when we arrived, but we had a straight shot out, once we cleared the Small’s boat which was tied up directly in front of us. We used a stern line to warp us off the dock and Veranda slowly made forward progress as Ken fended at the stern and Christy and Carol took care of the bow.

When we got to the center of the channel we were clear of the bottom and made our way down the creek with only 3 or 4 inches of water under us for the majority of the journey. After we cleared Whittaker Creek we turned east in the Neuse River. We had a bit of breeze and were able to motor sail for the first 3 hours and then the wind completely died. Then it was a long slow motor, across glassy flat calm seas.

Our destination for the day was Ocracoke, NC. It’s a small community out on the Outer Banks, one of the barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina. There are only 2 channels into the anchorage. One is called the Nine Foot Channel, its kind of a natural channel that does have aids to navigation but seems to be a little sketchy as to the depths. The other route is called the Big Foot Slough Channel, commonly referred to as the Ferry Channel. It’s a marked channel that is transited by car ferries. The downside of this route is that there is confirmed shoaling to avoid and the ferries are timed so closely together that you can’t really get through the channel without meeting at least 1 ferry.

So we had several hours to read all the guides and consider all the advice we’d been given to make our decision as to which route to choose. Then, while still 15 miles away we heard the Coast Guard advising an inbound boat as to the location of some severe shoaling in the Ferry Channel.

We figured that armed with this new knowledge plus the fact that if the ferry can do it…….so can we, the Ferry Channel it is. The channel is several miles long and as you approach you can barely see land. As you approach the channel it’s from an extreme angle so it’s not obvious to you what your exact route will be. Theres nothing to be seen but water in every direction and there seems to be aids to navigation tossed about in a very haphazard way. Once committed to the channel it becomes a little easier to get your bearings and make sense of the channel markers.

We got through the sketchy parts quickly and met an outbound ferry in the widest, deepest part of the channel. That passing went well and we were soon getting ready to turn into the tiny breakwater so we could enter the harbor. Just as we were approaching the small stone jetties we heard the horn blasts of the next ferry departing from his berth. We turned around and milled about for a minute as the ferry came out the breakwater so we could safely enter.

Once inside we were in a completely landlocked pond. There were a half dozen boats already at anchor and we found a perfectly spaced spot right in the middle of everyone. The bottom here is sand and provides excellent holding. We’ll spend a few days here before we head up to Manteo on Roanoke Island.

Later this afternoon a catamaran came in and gave an excellent demonstration on how “not” to anchor. By the time they started their third attempt everyone in the anchorage was on deck watching. By the time he was on his fourth attempt I had to get the camera out and take some video. (unfortunately he provided me with so much great footage that the file is too big for me to load here). He let out half the chain he was going to use and dragged the anchor until it started to set and then he paused while his wife dumped the rest of the chain. Then he started back again but at such a high speed that when the chain came taut it ripped the lightly set anchor from the bottom and it just bounced along with no chance to reset itself. Finally they would have to retrieve their anchor and try again with similar results. But even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and again and they got the anchor to set on their eighth attempt. The sick thing is that they’ll probably tell everyone they know about the shitty holding here while it was just an improper anchor or crappy technique on their part.

If you've ever seen those fake owls that people put out to scare away seagulls then I guess you'll agree that their effectiveness is a little overrated.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22, 2008.

We were food shopping and realized just how different that experience can be even in our own country. The first photo is of a display of chewing tobacco. It’s a pretty big display with over a dozen brands represented. It’s also thoughtfully laid out at eye level for kids. Ya know, so they can emulate dad, probably get mouth cancer just like dad too.

The other thing that I can’t recall ever seeing in a food store was the “personal watermelon”. They were cute little watermelons about the size of a cantaloupe. I never really realized that there was a market for personal watermelons.

On Saturday, while we were here, our friends Ken & Carol ventured out on their boat to do some racing. They traveled a couple of miles down the Neuse River to Broad Creek for a regatta organized by the Whortonsville Yacht and Tractor Club. I swear to God, yacht & tractor club. It sounds like a pretty fun minded group and not anything like those hoidy toidy New England yacht clubs.

They ended up with close to 40 boats in spite of less than stellar weather. (10 knots of wind with intermittent thunder heads) They take their racing seriously down here, seriously fun. Everyone wants to win but everybody shows up in spite of their chances.

The racing starts young here as well. There was a need for an Optimist Fleet here in the area. So the members of the local wood working club built a fleet for the children.
The boats were then painted and each one is decorated with corporate sponsorship. It’s a great way to learn to sail and the kids in these parts are well on their way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

June 20, 2008.

We ended up spending 2 nights at anchor in Beaufort. Town was a nice place to walk around and do a little shopping. There are several fine little places to eat along the main drag.

On Thursday morning we were up and underway by 0700. High tide in Beaufort was supposed to be around 0930 so we wanted to get a good start up Adams Creek so we could ride the tide for all it was worth. Raising both anchors went smoothly and didn’t take much more time than raising our usual single anchor.

It was only about a 20 mile trip to Oriental. We averaged 7 knots for most of the trip and just when the push ended we got a good bit of breeze and were able to sail across the Neuse River into Whitaker Creek.

Our friends Ken & Carol live at the end of the creek. The entrance channel has given us trouble in the past, as the depths are just barely enough to keep Veranda afloat. Things went smoothly for us though, as we entered the creek. For the entire length of the creek the water is only a couple of inches deeper than Veranda requires. We took our time and slowly made our way down the creek.

We had to go to the end of the creek and make a “K” turn to approach their dock. There were sailboats tied to the bulkheads on 3 sides of us as we maneuvered the boat at the end of the channel. Just to complicate things a bit as we turned around our keel was ever so slightly dragging across the bottom. It took a bit of backing and filling to position ourselves alongside the dock but things went very well and we were tied up in short order. I was pretty pleased as the area is tight and the surrounding bulkheads are lined with sailboats and witnesses.

Oriental is a first class little town. People are friendly, everyone knows each other and it’s just a great place to visit. The place is extremely sail oriented. There are facilities to get work done along with a couple of chandleries and an excellent nautical consignment shop.

Let me bring you up to speed on our refrigeration woes. When we got back into the United States our fridge was on the blink. We had the refrigerant refilled while we were in Vero Beach. The recharge only lasted about 5 weeks so we realized that our leak was fairly serious. So, while we were in Carolina Beach we called a service guy that was recommended by several different people. Those people must hate us because this guy turned out to be an idiot. He did diagnose the problem but didn’t have the replacement part in stock. So we decided to once again have the refrigerant recharged figuring that we could have the repair done by someone when we finally got to Oriental. The guy hooked his gauges to our system and then discovered that he couldn’t hook his gauges to his own bottle of refrigerant. It seemed that he didn’t have the correct adapter. WTF? It’s his own bottle with his own gauges and he can’t hook em’ together? He finally ran down to the hardware store and bought some plumbing fittings so he could connect his own crap together and recharge our system.

Unfortunately, that charge only lasted 5 days, so the leak was getting worse. So once we arrived in Oriental, Christy called a guy that Ken had recommended. She explained the whole ordeal and Ron was real noncommittal as his schedule was booked solid. 2 hours later Ron called back and said that parts for another job failed to arrive so he had a bit of time and could drop in and look at our fridge for us. He stopped by on his way home and said the part that was leaking just needed to be re-soldered and not replaced, and that he could stop by in the morning first thing and take care of it. So it was decided that to save time I would remove the compressor from the boat so he could do the welding outside the boat in the morning. He showed up on time, repaired the crack in the system and reinstalled and then recharged the system for less money than either of the 2 previous servicemen. Excellent.

So once again my beer is cold, my meat is hard and life is good.

Friday, June 20, 2008

June 17, 2008.

Well, the forecasted 15 knots of wind never materialized. Last night just before sunset we had great southwest wind and I jokingly asked Christy if she wanted to get underway right then. We should have done it. We got up this morning to 6 knots of wind right over the stern.

We had the main up with a preventer and ended up having to motor sail. After a few hours the wind completely died, so down came the main sail. We had 4 foot rollers coming under the starboard stern. The only problem with that was that they were practically right on top of each other only 5 seconds apart. It was a little uncomfortable but we were making good time as the seas helped to propel us towards our destination.

After lunch we did get our little bit of breeze back and were able to unroll 2/3’s of the genoa to help boost our speed. It was a long dull day of motor sailing. We were the only boat on our part of the ocean all day.

We did use the VHF to listen to the boats that had opted to travel up the ICW. We heard several hailing SeaTow after having run aground. We heard a few more sitting, waiting for bridges to open. I was glad that we had gone outside again even though we had to motor sail the entire way. We covered 71 miles in 11 hours so we made pretty good time. None of the boats that left with us this morning, that decided to go on the inside, were able to make the trip in one day.

The only “obstacle” on our route is an area of Camp Lejune. Camp Lejune actually straddles the ICW and today was one of those days that they closed the ICW, as they are actually shooting across it. We heard several boats waiting for the ICW to open up again so they could continue their travels.

Out in the ocean there are 2 Camp Lejune areas of concern. One is in close to shore and is a restricted area with no boating allowed what so ever. The other is just marked “dangerous” on the charts. Our rhumb line took us through a 20 mile stretch of the “dangerous” sector. In the past we’ve heard boats hailed and told to alter course to get out of the dangerous sector. It was a shortcut that we opted for with no contact from anyone.

As soon as we reached Beaufort Inlet the wind started to build. The Coast Guard was making Urgent Notice to Mariners broadcasts every few minutes because of several nasty storm cells moving through the area. 30 to 50 knots of wind were predicted.

We’ve never anchored here before and we were pushed by the incoming tide into the anchorage. Taylor’s Creek is the preferred anchorage and we were a little disappointed, to say the least. It’s extremely crowded with random moorings. The locals have this anchorage pretty well sewed up with not much room for anyone else. We went far enough into Taylor’s Creek that the moorings started to peter out. We dropped the hook in a very narrow section of the creek near a few small moored boats. As soon as we had the anchor down we launched the dinghy so we could set another anchor. We had to drop one hook upstream and the other downstream as the tidal current just rips through the anchorage.

We just got the second hook set when a nasty squall came through. The temperature dropped 20 degrees and the wind jumped right up to 20 knots. The wind topped out at a short lived 33 knots. The anchor to windward held just fine and the storm passed quickly. The VHF was alive with people bitching about who dragged into who and all kinds of wind related problems. When some friends of ours were here 3 weeks ago they had a front come through and smack them around with 50 knot gusts before it was over. So we were timely in getting our ground tackle set and a little lucky to boot.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16, 2008.

We left Carolina Beach this morning bound for Wrightsville Beach, NC. It was only a 12 mile trip up the ICW. We stopped for fuel as we left the anchorage and were underway by 1000.

One of the people that we met in Carolina Beach, Johnny, warned us that we would hate the anchorage in Wrightsville Beach. We’d never been there before but since it’s so close to the Masonboro Inlet we decided to go anyway. Johnny was right.

The anchorage is in a fairly narrow thoroughfare that’s heavily used by local water skiers. Evidently, it’s not a “no wake” zone so pretty much anything goes. The boats tied to the docks along this stretch take a beating in their slips. We waited until Monday with the hope that the boat traffic would be less than on the weekend. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that most of these “boaters” are kids that just got out of school for the summer. Combine 16 year old boys with high output ski boats, then mix in some girls to impress and it’s a real zoo on the water.

It did slow down at dinner time then another 2 hour burst of mayhem before finally dieing down at night. One thing in Wrightsville’s favor though is the holding. After several days in Carolina Beach it was nice to drop the hook someplace that when the anchor set, I almost fell off the boat.

So we sat here, well connected to the planet and did a few boat chores. We had to replace the propane solenoid for our stove and then I cleaned the bottom once again.

The wind looks like its going to be clocking around over the next few days so we’re going to head out tomorrow for Beaufort, NC. We should have 15 knots of breeze and following seas for the sixty couple mile jump to Beaufort. We’ll see……..
June 14, 2008.

Let’s talk about Carolina Beach a bit, the anchorage here offers great protection from pretty much every direction. The “bottom” is a different story though. After one of the big hurricanes back in the 70’s a dredge was placed here to suck sand from the bottom to replenish the oceanside beaches. As a result the anchorage was 40 feet deep when they were done. Over time the anchorage has slowly been silting in, but the water is still 20 feet deep in spots, but that’s only to the “false bottom”. When you drop your hook it settles onto the bottom but as you start to set the hook you can feel that you’re ever so slightly dragging backwards.

We usually back down hard on our anchor, but here, that’s pretty much impossible. We had to set the anchor at low RPM’s and then allow the anchor to settle through the silty bottom over a period of time. As a result when you pull the anchor at the end of your stay you’ll find your anchor chain completely covered in black, pudding-like goo. We’ve anchored in New York Harbor and had the anchor come up cleaner than this. Holy shit, what a mess.

We pulled the anchor to take a space at the dock near the Packet Inn’s. We had a guy coming to take a look at the refrigerator, as it’s giving us problems again.

Once tied up at the dock, we plugged into shore power for the first time since we were in Charleston on our way south in October. We’ve been making our own electricity for over 7 straight months now. The dock we’re tied too belongs to a guy named Dennis, he has a house here on the property. He rents out one floor of the home and has dock space for 5 boats along the waterfront. It’s a real nice setup and very convenient to the downtown area of town. We’ve spent a couple of really enjoyable nights hanging with everyone here at Dennis’s.

Back when we were looking for our cruising boat the Whitby 42 ketch was on our short list. They’re not rare, but not all too common either. As luck would have it we’re sharing a dock with one and there’s another only a couple hundred yards away.

We also saw a pretty unusual method of growing tomatoes. They’re hanging in a bucket but growing out the bottom of the bucket. Why, I dunno. Nobody seemed to have an answer and the grower wasn’t around to ask.

The other night Gary from Packet Inn was telling a story about their travels during a rainstorm. They don’t have side panels on their enclosure so when it starts to rain he gets soaked at the helm. His wife Mary is a very talented seamstress and has been promising to whip up a pair of side curtains for their cockpit but for one reason or another it just hasn’t happened. So for the better part of the evening Gary managed to include his lack of side curtains into the conversation. Any conversation, every conversation. He was just busting her balls, but it was pretty funny.

It got me thinking, so the next day I got out our sewing machine and added a pair of tiny side curtains to an old work hat I had on board. We gave the hat to Gary at dinner the other night. It won’t keep him any dryer but if he wears it enough maybe Mary will take pity on him and whip up a set of sides for their enclosure. We did have a good laugh though.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 13, 2008.

We’ve been here in Carolina Beach for a few days. It’s been hot as hell here so we decided to go to a matinee at the local movie house. We didn’t really care what we saw, we just wanted some AC, after tying up the dinghy it was about a half mile walk with the temperature in the high nineties.

We were a half hour early so we were sitting in the theater watching the tripe that played before the movie. Evidently we’ve been gone along time. We were watching a movie trailer for a couple of minutes before we realized that it was just a cell phone commercial. It was even directed by Spike Lee for Christ’s sake. Ridiculous. Anyway, the movie was okay, the AC was great.

We’ve spent every evening hanging out with Mary & Gary from Packet Inn. Last night Art and Ellie from Meermin drove down to go out to dinner with us. The Meermins live 20 miles north of here so after a short drive we all enjoyed our reunion at a local seafood place.

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 8, 2008.

We’ve left Charleston in our wake, but before doing so, we had to deal with Lenscrafters yet again.

After waiting for over a week, Christy’s new lenses hadn’t shown up at the store as promised on Wednesday. On Thursday we found out by phone that the lenses hadn’t even been made yet in the top secret Lenscrafters lens building facility, let alone shipped. The best they could do was to promise that they’d be shipped on Tuesday so we should have them in another 6 days. Christy is in Menopause so she’s a little less patient than usual (read that as hormone induced fits of rage). Editor’s Note: That is completely untrue, the part about fits of rage. <- Whatever the editor says. She very calmly and firmly explained our problem to yet another Lenscrafters employee. She was not making progress until she asked for the name, number and address of the head of customer service at their Corporate Headquarters.

Suddenly, the woman realized that they had generic lenses that could be made to fit Christy’s prescription instead of the pricey name brand lens we’d been waiting for. That’s right, and they were right there in the store, had been all along.

We were on the first bus to the mall the next day so we could have the new lenses put in Christy’s spare frame. We dropped off the glasses, walked the mall a bit and picked up Christy’s new eye wear. The new lenses were good and we will still have to have the primary glasses changed to the correct lenses somewhere up the coast. Once back at the boat we got everything ready to be up and underway the next morning.

We’d been listening to the VHF and had heard quite a few calls for towing assistance in the ICW just north of Charleston, so we were committed to traveling in the ocean instead of the “ditch”. We planned to stop in Georgetown to see family and friends but traveling on the outside complicates that a bit.

The trip from Charleston to Georgetown is 68 miles. We can do that in a day, but that would leave us with a trip of 97 miles to get from Georgetown to Cape Fear, NC. That would be an overnighter. If we combined the 2 trips and made one larger jump we could save about 30 miles and still only have to do one overnighter. No brainer, sorry Georgetown.

The tide wouldn’t be cooperating, as it would be coming in until noon on Saturday. So we hauled anchor at 1000 figuring we’d fight the incoming tide and arrive at the inlet at about slack tide. Hauling the anchor didn’t go as smoothly as planned. I retrieved the slack chain until the anchor was directly under the bow of the boat. I could tell that the anchor was not stuck to the bottom but it was snagged on something. Crap. The water there is solid silt with about one foot of visibility and roaring through at 3 knots. After about forever, the windlass was able to draw the anchor up to the surface and exposed our problem.

It was an old anchor/mooring line that’s been lying there on the bottom since Moses parked the ark here. It’s 7/8’s inch line and was folded and twisted back across itself several times so at one point it was 3 inches thick. It was a rat’s nest that had completely enveloped our anchor with three separate ends held taught to the bottom.

I couldn’t raise the anchor any further than water level. I couldn’t reach it to cut the line away. I wasn’t even sure if this line wasn’t still being used in the anchoring “system” of one of the local boats that are moored here. There were no locals close to us but I couldn’t take the chance of cutting it and decided to try and untie the knot with our boat pole. It was a lot like trying to untie the Gordian Knot with a hockey stick. Except, it worked. It only took ninety seconds of pulling, tugging, poking and twisting and the ropes started to unravel and fall away. We were underway.

The trip out the inlet was easy as we did hit it at slack tide with only a very slight breeze behind us. We had all sail up and found ourselves ghosting along at about 2 knots. It was going to be a 24 hour trip so I decided we could afford to be patient, which was risky, what with Christy’s medical condition as described above.

Three hours at 2 knots, followed by three hours at 3 knots, did little for our progress. After about 6 hours we found ourselves moving along at 4 knots in the light 6 knots of breeze. The water was once again dead calm as we slowly made our way towards the Cape Fear River. Finally at about 2130 hours the wind had all but died so we had to start the engine and motor through the night.

Propagation is the deciding factor in how well your radio works. If the propagation is crappy, then so will be your ability to receive and transmit. On this overnighter we had the best propagation we’ve ever had for the entire night. We could very easily hear Coast Guard broadcasts from the gulf coast of Florida which is several hundred miles behind us.

So we listened intently to a pair of mini dramas as they unfolded. The first was a guy on a single engine, 24 foot center console fishing boat. He and his buddies broke down 60 miles off the Georgia coast. Another boat that had been out there fishing towed them westward until fuel issues became a concern for them. So they were left adrift still 45 miles from the coast.

The Coast Guard arranged commercial assistance for them. When he was asked if he preferred SeaTow or TowBoat US he replied that it didn’t matter as he didn’t have any towing insurance. (BIG mistake) Both towing services were contacted and both scrambled to find one of their boats that had twin engines and enough fuel capacity to go out and get them. After several hours SeaTow was on their way. It took 4 hours for him to get on scene and several hours longer than that to complete the tow. At over $200 an hour that bill was gonna sting.

They really did get lucky though. If not for the nights extraordinary propagation their calls for help would probably have not been heard. Single engine, tiny boat 60 miles offshore, dumb asses.

As this rescue was ending another unfolded. A woman got on the radio and very calmly hailed the Coast Guard. After they replied, she reported that her boat was anchored and her husband was having chest pains. The radioman got her coordinates and told her that they had an asset patrolling in that area and he’d get in touch with them.

As soon as he told her that, she replied “They just passed by, right now”. From the initial call until the time they were on her boat was less than 2 minutes. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Christy and I have anchored there and have never even seen a Coast Guard patrol boat in that area. They loaded the guy into their boat and took him to a nearby marina where they had an ambulance waiting to transport him to the hospital.

Just before dawn we got a bit of breeze and rolled out the genoa and motor sailed into the Cape Fear River inlet. Once we had to start the engine last night we plotted our arrival to make sure we hit the river on an incoming tide. It all went perfectly and we rocketed up the river at 8 knots.

After a quick 10 mile jaunt up the river we stopped in Carolina Beach, NC before noon. Our friends from the Packet Inn keep their boat here for the summer so we’ll be dropping in on them for a visit or several.

It’s incredibly hot here, as it was in Charleston, but thank God for a bit of ocean breeze to help cool things off. One of the bridges we would have had to transit if we had stayed on the inside was inoperable for a day and a half. It’s been so hot here that the metal had expanded to the point where the bridge would not open. They’ve been spraying it down with water in between openings in an effort to keep it cooler.

We should be here for a couple of days before we head out the Masonboro Inlet on our way to Beaufort, NC.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 2, 2008.

It’s Monday here in Charleston. We’re stuck here until at least Friday as prisoners of Lenscrafters. When we were in the Bahamas Christy had a problem with her glasses. The surface of the lens deteriorated in such a manner that it looked as if there were a million tiny cracks across each lense. She said it was like looking through a fog.

So we decided to hit a Lenscrafters as soon as we got back to the states. We found one in Lake Worth and after an eye exam they had to order new lenses, the problem was that it was going to take 10 days to get them. With our boat owners insurance requiring us to be north of Savannah, Ga. by June 1st sitting there waiting was not an option. Besides we don’t really like Lake Worth that much. So the plan was that when the lenses arrived they would make the glasses and send them to us in Vero Beach. You wouldn’t believe how difficult this process is. When we explained that we live on a boat and that our shipping address can be a bit bizarre at times people just turn into idiots. Everybody nods their heads like they understand and then our stuff gets shipped to God knows where.

After ten days sitting in Vero Beach waiting for her new glasses, Christy called the Lenscrafters in Lake Worth and was told “Why yes, your new glasses are sitting here waiting for you to pick them up” Arrrrgh! This was the same woman we dealt with while we were there, finally she agreed to ship the glasses, which were FedExed to us the next morning. Happy ending? No.

Christy got them and wore them for a day, all the while complaining that something was just not right. We hopped on the bus and headed to the local Lenscrafters in Vero and found out we’ve got big problems. It seemed that the glasses were in fact made correctly to the prescription that the doctor wrote in Lake Worth, but the prescription was wrong! Way wrong. According to him her eyes had miraculously gotten 3 diopters better than they’ve been in over 20 years. But even more miraculous was the fact that he didn’t think it was noteworthy enough to mention it to her. This change is so radical that Christ himself would have had to make an appearance to perform this miracle. I’d have remembered if that had happened.

So then she had to have another eye exam and that prescription is completely different than the first. It is close to the prescription in her old glasses so it stands to reason that this one might be accurate. They didn’t have the lenses in stock and we didn’t want to wait 10 more days, since we had already been in Vero for almost 2 weeks.

Armed with this new knowledge we headed for Charleston, SC to make the boat insurance people happy. Now, north of Savannah we have the time to make sure this gets resolved.

We found the local Lenscrafters and explained everything that had happened so far. So now they are going to remake Christy’s glasses but the lenses once again have to be ordered, so we’re stuck until they come. We’ll see what happens.

We’ve spent the last couple of days biking around Charleston, doing a little shopping and eating and exploring. There’s a boat over in the marina that I thought was picture worthy. That’s the difference between our boat and a really high dollar boat.
Transom windows to die for, hydraulic roller furling, a windlass the size of our generator and the boat came with breasts.

Yesterday we spent the entire day on the boat. It was 95 degrees with a heat index of 105. Being out and about was not on the itinerary. There was a decent breeze out on the water and we have our boat shades up so we were as cool as was possible. Even still, we literally laid in front of the fan and read all day.

The anchorage here on the Ashley River has a very strong tidal flow, so for 6 hours we face west followed by 6 hours east over and over again. There are quite a few local boats that never leave this anchorage, the people live on them and work in the city year round. As a result some of these folks have put in their own moorings for their boats.

So if we have out a hundred feet of chain when the tide switches, we actually move 200 feet the opposite way. The moored vessels might only move 50 feet total so you have to be aware of who has what going on when you pull in and drop the hook.

Last night a big catamaran came in and guaranteed himself a shitty night. He pulled close to a boat on a mooring and dropped his hook. He drifted back, set his hook and was pretty satisfied with himself about a hundred and twenty feet from the local. I was gonna call him and point out that it was slack tide so everything wasn’t as it appeared but another boat hailed him on the radio first. The other boat was closer to the catamaran and he just wanted to tell the new guy in the neighborhood how much scope he had out. Sometimes people like that can be a pain in the ass but in reality they just want everyone to be safe so you just grin and bear it. Not this guy though, he replied tersely that he knew what he was doing. I’d heard enough, I was not getting involved.

At about 0330 we had a front come through. It blew 25 to 30 for only 5-10 minutes with rain coming sideways from every direction. We were up closing ports when we heard shouting so went topside and spied the catamaran tangled with 2 of the moored local boats.

Once we were buttoned up tight Christy went back to bed and I watched to see where the cat was gonna reanchor once they got themselves untangled. It took about 10 minutes to free themselves and retrieve their anchor. Then they spent another 15 minutes circling, looking for another spot. Thankfully, they finally decided to go to the city marina and tie up to one of the floating docks.

As quickly as it came upon us the storm was gone and the night became calm once again and I was back to bed.