Saturday, April 30, 2011

The penultimate leg

The wind, unfortunately, continued to be almost nonexistent for our last passage in open seas from Wrigthsville Beach to Morehead City and we motored all the way to the anchorage opposite de infamous "Sanitary" restaurant. We had dinner on Papy Jovial anyway for a quiet Easter Evening.
Monday morning, we left leisurely at 9 a.m. to avoid adverse current and we arrived in Oriental around 1 in the afternoon. Having put the boat in order, we went for a walk to look for the local supermarket, around a mile away. Having done the provisioning, we had drinks with local people at the Tiki Bar before a simple dinner at the marina's restaurant.
Next day, I was intended on walking and we made a first attempt to go south of the marina. We did not go even one block before an intense rain chased us back to the boat. We waited a little bit, and having decided that the sky had definitely cleared, we went north this time, and it did not even last half a block before a heavy downpour made us run back to Papy Jovial. The rest of the day, we kept busy doing nothing and reading a little.
I had been told that Thursday was going to be very windy and rainy, so I left on Wednesday trying to move as much as I could towards Norfolk, as time was becoming to be tighter and tighter. Luckily, I was able to use motor and sail to log what is probably my best run ever on the waterway, with 99 statute miles for the day. And we were very fortunate to be able to get an opening of the Alligator River bridge, knowing that it probably won't open on Thursday. We anchored in the Little Alligator River, thinking that we were going to be able to make a run for Columbia the next morning. Unfortunately, the wind kept blowing harder and harder, and we spent Thursday hunkered down with the wind gusting at 40 knots.
No more tourism ! Now the goal is to make sure that the elements won't prevent me from arriving in Norfolk on time. So on Friday, we left directly for Coinjock where we arrived early in the afternoon. My friend Mike (my riding buddy) joined us for dinner and to sail the last leg to Norfolk with me, as he had sailed the first leg to Coinjock with me on May 16th, 2009.
The bridges did their very best to try and scare me and make me think that we could still get stuck. A 400 cars coal train did its best to keep the Gilmerton bridge closed. But all that to no avail. We got to Tidewater Marina around 5, and I will spend the night INCOGNITO there, being now certain that nothing could make me be late for my own home welcoming party. Although, I still have 2.65 miles to go !

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wrightsville Beach

Another stop which will not be forgotten anytime soon. As it would be extremely difficult to find people as generous and hospitable as Tom and Barbara.
Tom was there, waiting for us as we arrived at Dockside, and helped us with the lines and with finding a diver to check on the shaft and especially the cutlass bearing after the crab pot incident.
We had lunch at the dockside bar and restaurant, which is a very lively place. In the afternoon, Tom drove us to Wilmington downtown and gave us a tour of the place. I must say, I had never seen Wilmington from that angle and it feels like I would like to return there with Papy Jovial.
Barbara joined us that evening and we had dinner at a fish house near Dockside. Generously, Tom left one of his cars with us so that we would be able to go shopping whenever we needed to.
On Friday, I wanted to do some work on the boat, just regular maintenance but that had to be done, like topping up the batteries with distilled water, changing the belt on the main engine as it shows signs of beginning to disintegrate, and other small chores.
Friday night, Barbara had cooked a wonderful dinner which we enjoyed at their place.
Saturday morning, Tom went with David to get his boat at Carolina Beach and was back mid-morning to show us Bradley Creek and then back to Dockside through Shinn Creek and the Motts Channel. We had lunch at Dockside, or to be more precise, on Tom's boat (Floundering around) with food provided by the Dockside restaurant. After lunch, little tour of the waterway up the Figure Eight bridge and some funny houses with a giraffe or a King Neptune in their front yard.
We then went back to Papy Jovial, gave some time to Tom and Barbara to go home and get ready for another great evening, this time a cookout in their yard.
Sunday morning, David got up at 5, drove himself to Tom's and then was driven to the airport to fly back home in Miami where he will be cooking the most part of a full turkey dinner. Tom and Barbara where by Papy Jovial at 6:30, and we left at 6:45 for Morehead city, going outside, Tom and Barb escorting us and taking some great pictures of Papy Jovial under sail against the rising sun.
This was a great conclusion of a great Easter Week-End with more than great friends.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Savannah and beyond

I have never taken so much time to sail from the Bahamas back to Norfolk. It is a strange feeling but not unpleasant.
In Savannah, we were welcome by the local Brotherhood of the Coast and treated like kings. Arriving a Thunderbolt marina, I did not even have time to go and get my rental car that they were already on the boat to welcome us when I came back. This was the start of a wonderful four days with the brothers and their wives entertaining us in turns. Albert and Alise the first evening, then dinner at Patrick and Wren the next day, then everybody showing up at Tubby's on Friday, and finally a wonderful brunch at Mike and Karen, celebrating Alise's birthday. Certainly the best time I have ever had in Savannah for a long long time.
From Savannah, we left kind of late on Sunday afternoon and dropped anchor immediately south of Port Royal sound in Skull Creek. Very quiet and charming anchorage, on the side of the waterway.
After a quiet night, we left for Beaufort, SC, which was only 15 miles away, and where we arrived at 10:15 in the morning, with plenty of time to enjoy this historic little town, full of southern culture and architecture. We even took a horse drawn carriage tour with a fun filled commentary by a young guide.
We left Beaufort, SC at the 9:00 o'clock opening of the Ladies Island bridge and took the St Helena sound to go outside and sail straight to Southport, NC.
During the night, the gremlins struck again and we lost compass light, engine compartment ventilation, tachometer, oil pressure and temperature indications, and everything controlled by the engine room control panel. I knew at that point that there was no way to stop the engine as we might risk not to be able to restart it. We made it safely to Southport marina, called for a marine electrician, moved the boat by hand away from the fuel dock, and then a little bit later found out that everything had gone back to normal, with no way of identifying the problem, apart from assuming a bad or loose connection somewhere in the vicinity of the starter motor.
I just hope that the problem will not happen again, at least until I arrive in Norfolk.
From Southport we sailed up to Wrightsville Beach and managed to sail over a crab pot that got wrapped around the prop or the shaft. Be reversing the engine a few times, I managed to get rid of most of the lines and material, enough to get to Wrightsville Beach but with still some vibrations indicating probably still some line around the shaft. A diver came to the boat while we were away with Tom and Barbara and left a piece of line on the boat, probably to indicate to me that he had cleared the prop. I still have not seen the diver and I hope I will as I want to know whether the cutlass bearing is intact.
We are now in for some more dining and drinking with Tom and Barbara who are again showing and incredible sense of hospitality.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Snail pace

We got to Saint Augustine, after a windless passage from Cape Canaveral, and made the 11:00 a.m. opening of the Bridge of Lions.
As always, I enjoyed very much those two days in Saint Augustine. It is a very pleasant city, claiming to be the oldest city in the US, dating back to the middle of the 16Th century.
The day we arrived, we met with Rick and Pam, who are looking to buy a boat and go cruising, and with whom I had been in contact for some time. We had dinner across the street from the marina in a nice restaurant with good food and live entertainment, fortunately not too loud.
On Tuesday, we started the day with a long walk to find a pharmacy where David could find an alternative solution in the absence of his glasses that went swimming in Port Canaveral.
Back on the boat shortly before noon, we just had time to get into fresh T-Shirts before meeting Tom and Sarah who had driven all the way from Jacksonville to be with us. Again, pleasant lunch, in a restaurant across the street from the marina, but not the same one. As those who have followed the blog already know, Tom and Sarah have been really good to me, providing me with weather advice, but also technical advice any time I had a problem with the boat. Again, thank you so much Tom and Sarah.
In the evening, we went into historic Savannah for dinner and chose a place a little bit out of the traditional tourist path, quiet and not a rip off, for a beer and a light meal. Got back to the boat at a decent time, although there was going to be no rush the next day as we only needed to make the 8:30 opening of the bridge of Lions.
This was again a windless passage, but this time with a very high humidity, probably 100 %, and the windscreen of the dodger was continually covered with water.
I had chosen to take the Wilmington river entrance and therefore timed our speed to arrive at sunrise at the first marker. Problem free entrance to the Thunderbolt marina where we arrived at 9:30 in the morning.

Monday, April 11, 2011


freeport_canaveral by brisegalets
freeport_canaveral, a photo by brisegalets on Flickr.

Not a lot to say about the crossing from Ezio's place, east of Port Lucay to Cape Canaveral. It took 26 hours with only 8 hours of sailing. It sucks but that is often the case in these parts.
We arrived in Cape Canaveral around 10:30 on Friday and were greeted by Gary who took us first to lunch at the Grills by the water and then to the Customs Office for clearance.
We then went to Publix to refill with beer, wine and other less important commodities.
In the evening, we had almost a replica of the dinner I had there on the way out in 2009 with Roland, Justin, Daphne, Gary and his sweet heart Dolores, and of course David and myself. Only Dave could not make it.
Saturday, we spend the morning, or rather what was left of it, to go to West Marine as I am missing a few things on the boat (you are always missing something on a boat.).
We could not find an "abandon ship bag" on the Merritt Island shop and had to go to Melbourne, which very conveniently was located near the other Grill where we were to meet Gary. After a nice lunch there, I wanted to find a sports bar where I could watch the third round of the Masters Golf tournament. I tried to stick to fruit juice or lemonade, but we not all had the same idea.
So, after we came back to the boat, there was a need for more drinks and this did not go to well with the sense of balance of one of the crewmembers of Papy Jovial. In short, it ended up with a fall into the drink and frantic efforts to fish him out, efforts wich were eventually successful, at the cost of a cell phone, a pair of prescription glasses and a wet wallet. Other than that, no catastrophic injuries, just a few scratches.
Sunday morning, Dolores came to visit Papy Jovial and I am told that she enjoyed the tour. After that, quick lunch all together and we left Port Canaveral around 4 in the afternoon for the historic city of Saint Augustine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A very intense week

On March the 28, I had left Papy Jovial to fly to Miami and spend one day with David and Miriam. This gave me an opportunity to update myself on electronics and go to Chile, still able to communicate from there.
On the 30th early Morning, I flew from Miami to Santiago via Panama where I arrived shortly after 8 p.m.
That's when it started. As soon as I arrived in the hotel, I got ready to go to a party organized by the Brothers of the Coast of the Santiago group (we call that a table) to celebrate their 60th anniversary. There was plenty of food, plenty of drinks and plenty of friendship and it went on late into the night.
Next day, there was nothing going on until the afternoon, so I went for a walk and lunch in town, but not too far from the hotel as I did not want to get lost. The official start of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the brotherhood took place at the Hyatt hotel where we all registered and then had a wonderful dinner, all of us dressed in the formal "uniform" of the brotherhood, consisting of blazer and tricorne. Again, the event went on well into the night before we were taken back to the hotel.
After a very short night, it was time to board a bus to go and visit a winery more than 3 hours south of Santiago. There was a choice between the english speaking bus and the spanish speaking bus, and I chose the latter, first because it was the one going to my hotel, also because I want to try and improve my ability to communicate in Spanish.
Wonderful day. The winery was very interesting, being a small winery compared with the "Concha y Toro" giant. Obviously, the visit had to include a "tasting" session, but I did my best to minimize the "tasting" to be able to get back to the hotel still standing !
We got back very late and after a very quick dinner of one serving of french onion soup, time to crash.
Next day was the big day. First, we were taken by bus to Valparaiso. First, we went to visit the house of the chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Then we went on to visit the Naval Museum after a brief ceremony in the yard of the museum in presence of authorities from the Chilean Navy. In the museum, a room had been dedicated to the Hermandad de la Costa and it was inaugurated by the Admiral who had been attending the visit. That visit helped me understand a little better why the history of the seafarers of the 17th and 18th century, particularly in the Caribbean, are viewed quite differently depending on what culture you come from. I am not sure that I would myself have put on the same level sir Francis Drake and sir Henry Morgan next to Captain Kidd and Mary Read or Ann Bonney. All depends whether you are used to being a target as opposed to being the agressor, legally or not.
From the museum we were taken to a very nice restaurant with a view over the harbour of Valparaiso for more food and more drinks, and more fun, and more camaraderie.
After that extended visit to Valparaiso and the return trip to Santiago, we neede a little time to get ready for the main event, wich was a gala dinner. The dress code for that event was Combat. For those who don't know, it means dressing the way movie makers, marketers and others unscrupulous historians want us to see the corsaires, privateers and pirates of the 18th century are portrayed. Actually, those people would dress any way they like using whatever clothes was available to them from the loot.
The net result is that those events in the "Hermandad de la Costa" which call for that dress code are always very colourful and are a lot of fun.
Again, that event went well into the night, the dinner being followed by music and dancing. The good news was that the next day, final day of the event, was not to start before 9:30 in the morning when the buses were supposed to pick us up at the hotel. The programme for the day was first a visit of downtown Santiago and then a dancing luncheon at a typical restaurant with a show of Chilean dances. The dancing then involved everybody and went on until 5 p.m.
That did not leave much time for me to pack and nap before leaving for the airport at 10:30 p.m. for a flight that did not take off before 3 in the morning. But I was told that you had to be at the airport at least 3 hours before the flight. Except that many people were confused being the standard time and the daylight saving time. I finally landed in Freeport around 5 p.m. and Ezio was there to pick me up.
I think I will need a couple of days to recover before resuming normal activities.