Friday, April 25, 2008

To do or not to do

Now that Papy Jovial is at home at the Scotts Creek marina in Portsmouth, that is the end of the exciting part of life, and back to the day to day plugging along to get her ready for the big one.
That is to day, I have to go through my "to do list" and get everything done.
The beginning was easy. Phone calls, meetings with supplier, place the orders. I have the main sail ordered with a deposit made, I have the WindVane Monitor ordered with a deposit made, the divers have started maintaining the hull and have replaced the missing zinc anode, dates have been set up with the carpenter, and I am waiting for a quote from Mike's canvas. More important, the hatches have gone to "HatchMasters" in Connecticut and should be back by the time I come back from my transatlantic trip.
Now comes the boring part. Make a full inventory of what I will keep on the boat, maintain the winches, take apart, clean and put back together both heads and discharge valves, etc . . . 
Not much has been done so far, as I have wasted a lot of time hiding at the house, pretending to myself that the weather was too bad.
I am now in San Antonio to party with my brothers and will have only a few days back in Norfolk before I fly to St Maarten. At least, I should try to clean the inside of the boat real well, empty the fridge, etc....
I hope that sailing to France with Bernard Couvercelles will take a maximum of 35 days and that we will leave with no delay so that I have a little time left when I come back before Jean-Paul flies in.
Lots of stuff on my plate. Maybe too much . . . . .

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A tough day at the office

Thursday morning, April 3rd, 03:00 in the morning. I have set the alarm clock and woken up, but the wind howling in the rigging does not sound very inviting. I stay in bed until almost 4:00, wondering whether it was worth it to go for the expected punishment. But then, I am not going to seek residency here in Oriental (or almost there) and I decide to go. It is 4:30.
First thing that happens is that the anchor gets jammed sideways in the roller. It's full of mud, but with the wind pushing me ashore, there is not time for housekeeping and I rush back to the cockpit. There I find the wheel blocked, and I am already imagining the worse, until I realise that I have left the autopilot on....
Finally, I am underway and I manage to clear the anchor and wash it a little bit while in the Adams creek on my way to the Neuse River in which I enter at 5:00 a.m.
There, this infamous river made me pay a hefty toll for the first passage of Papy Jovial up the river. The wind was forecast to veer East at 10 to 20, but in fact, it remains NE at 25 gusting at 30. With the engine at 2500 rpm (I don't dare pushing it more), I am making between 2 and 3 knots and it will take me more than 4 hours to get to the first corner where I begin to turn away from the wind. These were 4 painful hours. However, as soon as I turned the corner, came the reward. With the wind on the beam, I was able to unfurl the genoa and rush at 7.5 knots towards the entrance of the canal between Neuse River and Pamlico sound. Crossing the Pamlico sound was fast and I got to the south end of the Pungo/Alligator canal at 2:30, soon enough to m
ake it to the north side before dark. In fact, I reached the anchorage on the north entrance of the canal (Tuckahoe Pt) at 5:30 p.m. and used my MaxSea navigation system to anchor.
I am very impressed by the accuracy of the system. I feel like I co
uld almost use it with no visibility at all and get exactly to where I want to go. For example, while in the Pungo/Alligator canal, I could see whether I was off the middle of the canal looking at the computer screen. I wish I could find a way to have a duplicate screen in the cockpit.
Friday morning, after a windy night, especially towards 2:00 in the morning, I left the anchorage at 7:00, not really in a hurry as I only had 48 miles to go to Coinjock. Again, the forecast was for 20 to 30 knots of wind (this time from the SW) and I was concerned that the bridge over the Alligator river would not open. In fact, the wind remained all day at less than 15 knots and there was not problem. The wind only picked up as I arrived in Coinjock, but since the wind was right down the canal, I just turned around and went up the wind and the current to come alongside. No problem there and I was tied up at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Later on that afternoon, Stew and Diana arrived and we could celebrate their first time on Papy Jovial with white Barbancourt, before a nice dinner at the Coinjock Restaurant. Diana then drove home and Stew took up his quarters aboard.
On Saturday, departure at 7:35, with again a forecast of wind and rain. Again, we were lucky enough and apart from a few showers, made our way to Scotts Creek marina with good weather, friendly bridges which opened without much delay for us. We got to Scotts Creek at 3:40  in the afternoon. My backing into the slip was not pretty, but we did not hit anything and tied up safely, which was all that I could ask for for the first time into the slip. I hope I will be able to improve over time.
Papy Jovial is now home, after 1,575 miles of shake down cruising. Now starts the implementation of the already very long "to do" list.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Plugging along

Stuck for two days in Southport did not help much ! At least, I no longer have to battle the wind which has turned to a more southerly direction, but I still have to deal with strong winds, almost continuous rain, and rather cold temperatures.
Anyway, I can't possibly spend the whole spring in North Carolina, so I cast off the lines on Monday morning shortly before 11 :00, hoping to get to Morehead City and wait for a favourable weather window to go to Morehea
d City outside. That window never came, but I was able to carry on as far as Harbour Village marina on Mile Marker 267 where I arrived around 5:30 p.m. and that makes Morehead City a real possibility for Tuesday night. So, although it was a wet and windy day, it paid off. In the process, I managed to touch ground once, just to stay in tune with my reputation. The fact is that in the waterway, things happen real fast and it is not advisable to leave the cockpit even for one minute. Around Carolina Beach, as I went down to check my position, the boat came to a sudden stop hitting  probably a mud mound. I hurried to the wheel, and found out that a dredge was kind of blocking the way and that I had to negociate my way around it, under the dredge instructions. No real damage or problem, just a little scare to remind me to stay alert at all times.
On Tuesday, my timing went all wrong. First, I left the marina too early (6:40 a.m.) and had to wait for the Surf City bridge. Then, I thought that by pushing the motor a little, I would be able to make the Onslaw Bridge 10:30 opening. When I called 20 minutes before getting there, the bridge tender told me that the coast guards had instructed him to open only on the hour. So, I had to dance before the bridge, with the wind and the tide pushing me towards it (I am becoming quite familiar with that situation)  and wait for the 11:00 opening.
Then after, it was just going along, with rain and wind. On mile 225, I passed a trawler high and dry on the west side of the ICW, with still someone aboard the boat, which means probably that this was a recent grounding.
Arriving in Morehead city, I did not dare go through the West channel into the channel of the Morehead City facilities and went through the east entrance Still, I dropped the hook at 4:30 p.m. which was not bad.
Tomorrow again, the weather looks like it is not yet going to cooperate. Depending on the strength of the wind, this will be either Cedar Creek, or Eastham Creek, or my favourite one just before the Alligator canal. We shall see......