Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last leg

Days are getting shorter and shorter. This time we only have 10 miles to go and there was no rush to go. Mike came in shortly before 7 with croissants and breakfast pastries, and we took our sweet time to have breakfast. Then we went through the locks well in time to catch the 9 o'clock opening of the dreaded "Steel" bridge.
We had a commercial vessel with us, but that did not help, and we had to wait, even past 9 to get the opening. The following bridge was the Gilmerton, which opens on demand and which I have always found very helpful over the years. We passed it also with the commercial vessel in tow and then took off towards Scott's Creek.
By the time we got to Hospital Point, the weather decided to remind us that it still knew how to be nasty. The fog came, the temperature dropped 10 degrees in a hurry and wind started to pick up, when since morning we had had a nice temperature, some sunshine and no wind.
This was not going to deter me, anyway, and we tied up safely around 10:30, without smashing anybody's arm. :-)

Now, it is time to get on with the list of lists . . . but that is another story.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rain, fog, etc . . .

I was taking it easy this Friday morning, as I knew that I only had 32 miles to go. I saw a trawler, named Talisman, leave around 7:30 and myself I left at 7:45. As soon as I came out of the canal and into the Currituck sound, I found Talisman, going no more than 3 knots and zigzging in the channel, obviously only relying on its depth sounder. As soon as they saw me zip passed them (this is not that often that a sailboat can pass a trawler), they jumped in my wake and stuck in there. Having the benefit of MaxSea, a good radar, an excellent depth sounder and a compass for which I had checked the deviation, it was not all that difficult to stay in the channel even with only 400 yards of visibility.
The fog cleared up as we were entering the North Landing river and I slowed down to time myself with the opening of the North Landing bridge. Talisman called me on the radio and thanked me for leading the way, which I felt was nice of them.
At North Landing, we had great difficulties waking up the bridge tender. Actually, Talisman called the Centerville Turnpike bridge, pretending they were worried with the well being of the North Landing bridge tender. Coincidence or not, the bridge opened within 2 minutes, too late for Talisman to make Centerville in 24 minutes. So we stayed together thru Centerville and then Great Bridge. I tied up on the west side of the waterway between the bridge and the locks while Talisman carried on.
And then, the temperature which had been almost all right during the day, dropped significantly to the point where I was shivering inside the boat with all my cold weather gear on. So, when Stew showed up at dinner time, it did not take him much convincing to agree to go to a restaurant nearby and get some heat.
By the time we came back to the boat, the temperature was improving, and we were able to sleep comfortably.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hopping along

Today is going to be a very short day as I only plan to go to Coinjock. I left early, around 7:15 to make sure I got there before the wind starts to blow from the South, as the weatherman is predicting.
Shortly after leaving the Alligator River marina, I found myself hard aground in the middle of the waterway, actually right on the magenta line that is supposed to materialise the waterway. No damage and no problem, but I wish I knew an easy way to report that shoaling, as there will be probably some more doing the same.
I arrived at Coinjock before noon, having had rain and drizzles all along. But I don't care. The temperature is now above 50 and I can shed a few layers.
I felt so good that I went for lunch at the Coinjock marina restaurant for crabcakes and chocolate mousse cake.
Tomorrow will be as short as today, since I will only go to Great Bridge and tie up before the locks, waiting for Stew to join me on Saturday morning.

ATTENTION : For those who prefer to read the blog in french click on the link on the left side of this page.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The canal

I left Eastham Creek anchorage around 8 am, in a still bitterly cold weather and no sun. That anchorage is a very quiet and good one in terms of holding, but boy, how lonely can you feel ! Not a single soul around, no light, and not a single boat to be heard . . .
However, it was back into multiple layers, balaclava and gloves and rubber boots and, and ....
Crossing the Pamlico river was not a problem and I found myself soon in that dreadful Pungo River/Alligator River canal. Dreadful for me because of its monotony, the lunar landscape with remains of trees that were never given a chance to grow by the hurricanes, that bridge to nowhere, which again this time deserved that name as I did not see a single vehicle on it as long as it was in sight.
The Teresa Too ( an old morgan 41 out island that has been there for years) is still there. And the canal is still 26 miles long.
Then it was sailing up the Alligator River to the best bridge tender in the whole waterway, the Alligator River bridge. This time again, it opened one minute before I got through and I never had to slow down.
As soon as I passed the bridge, I made a sharp turn to the left and took refuge into the Alligator River marina, which is more a gas station with a dock than a marina, but anyway, it has electricity, which is all I care about as I need it to get warm. The maoeuver to get in cost me another hat, this time my wool hat, and I only have one spare. Time to get home to re-supply in warm accessories...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Northeaster takes its toll

When I woke up this morning (I slept with my balaclava, long johns and sweater with 48 inside the boat), I was not sure whether I should get going. The wind was already blowing at 20 knots and the forecast was for gusts at 30.
Then, what do you know, if you don't try. The worse that could happen would be like last year to return to the Cedar Creek anchorage in the Adams creek, if the Neuse River were to be too much for comfort.
So, I left the anchorage at 8:30 and entered the Neuse River at noon. Within half and hour, the Northeasterly, which was blowing at 25 knots, took my brotherhood hat that was only beginning to look like an old timer. . . .
However, I was surprised to see how well Papy Jovial was taking it. Last year, in similar conditions, I had to rev up the engine to almost 3000 rpm and I was hardly going at 4 knots, slowing down sometimes at 2 when the waves were a little steep and rough. This year, I went at 2500 rpm and I never slowed down to less than 4.8 knots and I was going most of the time at 6. I suppose that the much lighter weight of the boat this year and the lower dodger helped. Probably, the conditions also were less severe than last year.
Anyway, having paid the price (a cherished hat), I reached the Eastham Creek anchorage at 3:30 p.m., with the wind still at 20 knots. The weather man is promising me better conditions tomorrow. We shall see. . . .
I have found the leak on the generator, which is coming from the outlet of the raw water pump (no further detail at this point, I will check more extensively probably in Coinjock), but I also know that the failure on the electric part comes from the rotating part protected by a kind of mesh, which received salt water. Only a technician can tell me what to do.
I also noticed that the wind instrument is beginning to fail. I knew that it was kind of knocked down by the 60 knots storm that we went through in the Chesapeake bay in July and since then, I have seen it almost stop even with more than 5 knots of wind. This time, it stopped in 15 and then restarted. Another thing to check in Portsmouth.
My plan now is to go through the Pungo/Alligator river canal tomorrow and anchor at the northern end. On Thursday I will go to Coinjock and on Friday I will stop at Great Bridge and wait for Stew to help me go through the locks and into my slip in Scotts Creek on Saturday morning. Almost there. . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

More of the same

I am glad I decided to stay inside. I left Harbour Village marina at 7:00 this morning, with 38 degrees temperature (3 Celsius) , a clear sky and no wind. By ten o'clock, the wind started to come back but still like in a nice spring day, at something like 5 to 10.
I stopped at the new river marina to take fuel at $1.63 per gallon ! At the harbour village marina it was 2.75, and in Wrightsville Beach I saw one fuel dock at 2.91 . Crazy.
Anyway, I carried on with not much excitement until I reached Bogue sound. That is when the wind started to blow real good to gust at 30 knots. I reached the Morehead City anchorage at 4:00 pm with the wind still at 25. Anchored there and got ready for a good steak, some beans and a nice glass of Bordeaux wine. I deserve it, this was a long day at the office . . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A small step forward

Finally, by 10:00 am this Sunday, I could not stand to stay idle and waste one day doing nothing.
On top of that, a last minute check on the NOAA weather was showing Northerly wind 15 to 20 knots. Meaning, against the wind and the current, no way I could get to Morehead City before dark.
So, I went under the Wrightsville Beach bridge at 11:00 and made my way to the Harbour Village marina where I tied up at 1:30 pm. Since I have done it before several times, I know that by tomorrow, unless a bridge breaks down, I will be anchored at Morehead City. That will mean Coinjock on Wednesday night. I hope that someone from Norfolk will be able to come and help me to go through the Great Bridge lock and into Portsmouth. If not, I could either wait in Coinjock, or carry on. The weather, as always, will dictate what I do.

Do you call that spring ?

This morning leaving Barefoot landing, the temperature was 42 and the damn NE wind was still there to greet me. I put on long john, sweat pants, regular pants, foul weather pants, 2 pairs of socks, long sleeve jersey 100 % wool, my sweater from Guernsey, jacket, foul weather jacket, balaclava and wool hat, not forgetting gloves. This was not fun !
I missed the Sunset Beach ponton bridge opening by less than 15 minutes and had to waster 45 minutes at very slow speed since that bridge only opens on the hour. After that, it was only a matter of trying to stay out of the freezing wind. Got to Wrightsville beach at 5:30 p.m. and tied up at the expensive Dockside restaurant and marina (2 dollar a foot).
However, a gentleman who had helped me tie up started a conversation with me and eventually took me to his house for dinner prepared by his wife Barbara. Thom Zalewski is of polish descent while his wife has a french mother and a german father. This made for very interesting conversation and a very pleasant evening.
It looks like the weather is running out of NE wind for a little while on Monday. So, I will give myself a day off on Sunday and try and reach Morehead City on the outside on Monday night.
I am not very enthusiastic about going at anchor with these temperatures in the high 30s, low 40s during the night. I do not dare start the generator since it sprayed itself with sea water when we anchored north of Brunswick, GA and it can get pretty cold inside the boat. But on Sunday, we should see the temperature reach 62 and they say that in won't go below 42 during the night. So I will try and save the cost of the marina and go at anchor Sunday night.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Payback time

The tide yesterday had given me a credit of almost 3 miles, but took it all away and then some today.
I left Georgetown at 8:30 and as soon as I entered the Maccawaw river, I experienced around 1.2 knots of current on the nose and it remained like that all the way to Enterprise Landing where I left the river. I tried to hug the side of the channel as much as I could to minimise the effect of the tide which is strongest in the middle, so much so that one of the marina called me on the radio asking why I was avoiding the middle where, they say, there is plenty of water.
However, today I did not have far to go as my destination was Barefoot Landing, anticipating a run for Wrightsville Beach on Saturday.
I had been to Barefoot Landing many times before, but I had never set a foot, even a bare one, ashore. So this time, I walked the whole area, in search of a pit stop that would not kill my credit card. This was hard to find, but it turned out that the best place, at an affordable price, was just opposite my boat across the street.
So I had a nice dinner there and went back early to my boat as tomorrow will not be a lazy late start.
The weather forecast still does not look good. I look at the grib files, I look at the NOAA weather charts, I look at the Weather Service local weather, and all I see is North East 15 to 20 knots. I hope that by the time I get to Wrightsville Beach, the weather will give me a break and allow me to take the sails out before they get too much mold on them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lucky tide

Another lazy morning, since I had to wait for the Wapoo bridge to open at 9:00. Actually, it opened at 9:06 and I could not get the bridge tender either on channel 16 or channel 9. Someone actually suggested that it might be "doughnut time".
Same story at the Ben Sawyer bridge, where I sat underneath the bridge for 8 minutes, while waiting for the lady up the bridge to react.
But after that, this was my lucky day. I had tide and wind with me and was able to fly the genoa for a good part of the day. As a result, I arrived in Georgetown at 5:15 p.m., which gave me time to walk through this little town before dinner.
It is a very nice little town, looking a lot like many similar towns that I have visited while riding my bike in the country side. When I had asked the dockmaster at the marina where to go for dinner, he indicated to me the corner of Front street and Broad street, adding "everything is there". Yes, indeed. All shops and restaurant are concentrated in that one street over less than four blocks.
At first, I tried the "Big Tuna", but it was too crowded for me, and I decided to try somewhere else and come back after dinner. The problem was that all the other places were almost empty. Never mind, I had a simple grouper dinner at the "Captain's Deck" and then returned to the Big Tuna for a beer.
In all, I liked very much this town and if I have the opportunity, I will probably return. I think it is probably on a par, for me anyway, with Beaufort, SC.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home alone (sequel . . . )

After a wonderful evening on Sunday, it was time for Gary to take his bag off the boat. In the meantime, I had the mechanic from Yanmar have a look at the engine and find out why I keep loosing coolant. It turned out to be a leak in the hoses going from the engine to the domestic water heater, but the leak was at the bottom and I had missed it. They replaced the hoses, pressure tested the whole system, and handed to me a hefty bill in exchange for my peace of mind.
We had a nice lunch at Tubbees, near the marina, then went for a walk in search of a convenience store where I could do some shopping. We found the convenience store, but there was nothing there that would interest me.
So we went back to the boat, waiting for Albert to pick us up to go to town and enjoy the competition between bands of Pipes and Drums. Despite the continuous rain, this was a very enjoyable event, with bands from New York, the Canada and of course Savannah.
After I recovered my mail which had been sent to Albert's address, I went back to the boat and got ready for a leisurely start on Tuesday morning. I did not have very far to go as I had decided to make a stop in Beaufort (SC) that I had not visited since the mid 90s.
One mile before I got there, high temperature alarm on the engine as I was passing thru the last fixed bridge before Beaufort.
Immediately, I thought that it was this damn coolant again. Before dropping the hook, I rushed to the engine room and found out that the belt had broken.
I myself broke my own record for changing a belt. I must have done it within 5 to 10 minutes. I then went on to the dowtown marina in Beaufort, determined to enjoy my visit.
After tidying up the boat and a good shower on the boat, I went to a restaurant called "breakwater" on West street, and had and excellent meal and good conversations with my neighbours at the bar. I went back to the boat around 10:00 p.m. and went to bed.
In Beaufort, there is a bascule bridge north of the marina which has the very civilised idea to be restricted from 7:00 a.m. (too early) to 9:00 a.m., which is a good excuse to have a late start.
This time, no problem at all with any of the equipment on the boat and I made good time before hitting the last bridge before Charleston harbour, which is restricted from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Again, this gave me a very good reason to call it a day and drop the hook behind a tiny little island just underneath that last bridge. And it is restricted until 9:00 a.m., so I won't have to rush tomorrow same as this morning.
Tomorrow I plan on staying in Georgetown and I will take time to post some of the photos still to come.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Creeping up North

First thing on Monday morning was to go to the Riviera Beach marina to clear customs and take some fuel. I had completely forgotten about the change of the clock and did not get to customs, next to the marina until around 9:30. There they threaten me first to slap me with a 5,000 dollars fine, claiming that I am supposed to call an 800 number before I even leave the boat, get an entry number and then go to customs. I believe that they mostly wanted to show me how important they are.
Clearance being done, I took 30 gallons of fuel from the marina and left around 10:30 to go to Fort Pierce, hoping to top up the fuel tank at the fuel dock there. Unfortunately, with this one hour that I wasted in the morning, I missed the closing time by about 10 minutes and I settled for anchoring underneath the North Fort Pierce bridge, have an early dinner and prepare to leave early next morning as the tide will start to come in (against me) at 4:30.
So, I got up at 3:00, heaved up the anchor and was underway at 3:45 in the morning, headed to Cape Canavera, where I arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon. I first went to the fuel dock and was surprised to their low price of 2.10 dollar/gallon. I topped up the tank and was met there by Gary. I arranged for a mechanic to come and have a look at the alternator which is sometimes charging, sometimes not. I suspect a screwy harness or the fuse holder that does not look good, but I want to be sure.
The mechanic came, and sure enough, found out that both harnesses, to the regulator and to the tachometer were not good. He changed the fuse holder and fiddled a little bit with the wires until the tachometer would work again, but I know I have to change those harnesses once back in Portsmouth.
The fuel was inexpensive, not the marina, at almost 3 dollars a foot. So on the 11th, I moved into the barge canal to the harbortown marina at 1 dollar a foot.
Then it was lunch at the port with Gary, shopping at Publix in Cocoa Beach, a visit to a Defever 45 in Dragon Point to meet Mike a friend of Gary, Roland, his son Justin. After a few drinks and a lively conversation, we all went to Roberto's in Cocoa beach for a nice cuban dinner.
Then we went back to the marina, ready to leave next morning.
At 7:30 the next day, we went to the ICW and made our way to Daytona Beach in a very nice weather. We anchored south of Daytona Beach early in the afternoon, ready for drinks and dinner.
On Friday the 13th, we left at 8:45, just in time for the first opening of the memorial bridge in Daytona Beach. And we went on all day until we reached the bridge of Lions in St Augustine, that we passed at 4:30 in the afternoon. In theory, the weather on the GRIB file looked OK, so I decided to go outside and try and make the St Simons sound at 7:15 next morning, to catch the incoming tide. This we did, except that we had fog all night, NE wind 15 to 25 and a choppy 4 to 6 foot seas that did not go down well on Gary who spent the whole time in a horizontal position, fighting an upset stomach.
We entered the St Simons sound as planned at 7:15 on Saturday morning, still with a foggy weather and a visibility restricted to less than 0.25 mile. Anyway, with the help of the radar and MaxSea, I went in and made it to my planned anchorage in Big Tom Creek, 28 miles before Savannah.
On Sunday morning, getting up at 7:00, I could not even see the bow ! I was afraid that we were about to waste another day. Fortunately, the fog lifted enough that we could get under way before 10:00 and we arrived in Savannah early afternoon. We had just enough time to clean the boat, before Albert showed up in a splendid scottish uniform, well suited for a few shots of an excellent scottish whisky. We had dinner at Albert's place, with Alice and we enjoyed their company so much that we were not back on the boat until midnight.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Back in the USA

Hell did break loose for the first three days of March and I certainly did not regret my decision to make an early return to Gran Lucayan Waterway. We probably would have missed the deadline for the flight back to Miama for Ajut and Claudine.
Life in Gran Lucaya Waterway is not all that bad anyway when your hosts are Ezio and Stephanie. Not only did we have water and electricity for the boat (Internet up to the day when it rained heavily and soaked my wireless network adaptor), but they would also let us use their car (trusting us to drive on the wrong side of the road) which allowed us to sample what it is to shop in Gran Bahama island.
Every night we had dinner together, either aboard Neptune or on Papy Jovial. In both cases, Stephanie, Ajut and Claudine took the opportunity to showcase their culinary talents, to the benefits of all. The company included Peter, whose wife is currently away, and is one of the most talented fishermen in the Bahamas. Needless to say that there always was plentiful of delicious fish, conch, lobster and other seafood to enjoy.
March 4 came very quickly and I took Ajut and Claudine early in the morning for their flight to Miami. I have not heard from them since so I assume that they made it safely back to France.
Originally, I wanted to leave either on the 5th or the 6th, but the weather decided otherwise and I could only leave on the 7th around 10:00 in the morning.
The crossing to West Palm Beach was uneventful but unpleasant as I had to motor all the way. I had a light breeze in my back and residual swell across and Papy Jovial was rolling heavily all the way. I also realised that the alternator had stopped charging the batteries (again !). I tried changing the fuse that was the problem when we left Virginia, but this time no result. It is not a catastrophy as the solar panels are charging very well and I can top up with the generator if I need. But the sooner I fix this problem, the better for my peace of mind.
I arrived at the Lake Worth inlet around 11:00 p.m. and failed to find a suitable spot to drop the hook behind Peanut Island. I then went south in the waterway and anchored in Lake Worth on the East side of the Waterway a little more than 1 mile south of Riviera Beach marin around midnight.
I will spend Sunday at anchor and will go to the marina tomorrow to clear customs, take some fuel to continue up north and possibly find a mechanic to look at the alternator.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

False start

Early mornign, all ready to go, I started the engine, we cast off and went. Only as far as the end of the slip when the engine stopped. Luckily, we were able to grab the last pile of the slip and return to the dock.
First thing first, I checked that we still had fuel in the tank. Then, suspecting that again some piece of algae had block the fuel line, I went to check the racor filter, after I closed the fuel valve, and found the bottle of the racor filter full of fuel. I went back up, restarted the engine, and it worked fine. After a few minutes, since everything looked OK, we went again. Then, once in the channel, we the wind too much ahead to sail, the engine started again to show signs of shutting off. Sweating with stress, heart beating fast, we managed to sail out of the channel and drop the hook outside.
I went back down to check and find out that I had forgotten to reopen the fuel valve. Oooppppssss !
So, we started again and this time, had no problem sail to Man-O-War cay through the Whale Cay passage which was manageable with the wind now down to less than 15 knots.
We arrived at Man-O-War cay at 11:40 but had trouble setting the anchor on grassy sand. At the third attempt, we came as close as possible to the beach to get some clean sand and then the anchor held.
After that, it was time to meet Ted Dowty and Barbara who took Ajut and Claudine in their golf cart to visit the island while I concentrated on meditating aboard Papy Jovial.
At 6:00 p.m., we all got together at the restaurant of the Eastern Harbour and had conch fritters and a nice grilled mahi-mahi dinner, washed down with clean water (Man-O-War rules). Very pleasant dinner, where everybody knows everybody else in the restaurant, and obviously a very social place for the island.
At 8:00 p.m., we returned to the boat and heaved away, sailed outside and around Elbow cay, Little Harbour, Hole-in-the-wall and up to the entrance of the Gran Lucaya waterway at 7:30 p.m. I had decided to leave Friday night as I knew that an intense cold front was likely to hit us on Sunday morning if we had spent the night in Man-O-War.
Going up the waterway with radar and MaxSea was not difficult at all and we tied up at Ezio's dock before 8:00 p.m.
Now hell can break loose, we are OK.
And, as always, more photos in the Papy Jovial album.