Water heater stopped working. Went down below and photo’d make & model and googled the manual. Followed the troubleshooting protocol and fixed it. The electric water heater is assisted, if the port engine is running, by a heat exchanger running hot engine water thru the water heater coils. That part of the system is closed and, I think, was low on antifreeze fluid when I headed here from Key Largo resulting in an internal tripped circuit breaker. Ten minute fix and all is well.
Not a 10 minute fix however is the clothes dryer which stopped working Monday. I think the belt on the drum broke. The dryer is a tight fit inside a cabinet above the washer. I won’t have the strength etc to remove it either to fix or replace so I have a repair person coming. Since the cabinet is furniture quality, I did the disassembly of all the face trim and of the disappearing accordion sliding doors. Not being mechanical etc., I was amazed at the design and build intricacies of the cabinetry. A jigsaw puzzle made to be taken apart. It needs removal for access and I don’t want some appliance repair person using a screwdriver and hammer to pry things apart. The repairman, unfortunately, ruptured his appendix and was EMS’d to Miami. Hopefully it’ll be fixed early next week and even more hopefully, I’ll remember how it all thet trim goes back together😄.
Today, Friday 1/10/20, I had lunch with a couple of boaters who started cruising at about the same time I did. I first met them 4-5 weeks ago at the Bill Bird Marina in Miami. That’s the marina about which I wrote unfavorably – nice facility but horrid or maybe I should say non existent management. When I tried to dock there in very high winds there were no dockhands. I didn’t pay that much attention at the time, being busy to not be blown into the neighboring boat and trying to avoid fouling my props with marina lines floating in the water, but there was a fellow boater on the dock trying to catch our lines to no avail. Later in that day or the next, the female side stopped at the boat and visited a while. Turned out they were heading to the Keys as well.
They headed out of Miami somewhat weeks before I did but messaged me a few times via NEBO about their route and progress. NEBO is the tracking program I use to keep visual track of my journey, it’s individual legs and statistics. It’s the program that provides the maps that I use for most of my posts. NEBO also shows the current locations and status of boats that are subscribed to it and it has a feature wherein you can message back and forth between boats – a handy feature to ask a fellow boater who is a day or so ahead how they got through a shallow area or what an upcoming Marina is like.
So anyway they also ended up in Marathon for two weeks in a marina about a mile or so away and today we got together for lunch. For someone like me, not too social, I enjoyed it and had a little opportunity to practice my social skills. Turns out that prior to buying their boat a year ago, they also spent a lot of time RVing. They do live in the Southern CA area. They had been planning to leave today for Key West for a couple of weeks but the high winds we’ve been having caused them to extend a day or two. They’ve been enjoying Marathon so much that when they’re done in KW, they are heading back to Marathon and have booked a week or maybe two at the same marina I’m at.
It has been very windy and that is predicted to be the case for the next week. Steady winds of 20-25 mph out of the east and constant small craft warnings. I’ve started the process of taking care of my eyes/cataracts and hope I can have both done while I’m here. Also will see a doctor next week. My prescriptions have run out and the prescribing doctor, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, won’t renew unless he has another billing opportunity/sees me. So the concierge here at the resort is getting me a appt next week and I can get a full set of new prescriptions.
Today 3 more boats arrived at the marina one of which is another looper boat. There are now 8 Americas Great Loop boats in the marina, far more than I’ve seen in one marina at once so far. Temp is back up to 80+ and wind today was below 12 mph – a marked improvement.
Woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. Had stayed the night at the Pilot House Marina in Key Largo. It is located on ‘Lake Largo‘, a small interior lake, actually a basin, about 1/2 mile inland from the Atlantic. Their ocean canal entry is about the narrowest I’ve seen. I wasn’t really sure it was an entry, just looked like a small gap in the shoreline. Crowd sourced navigation notes warn of shallows, of rocks, of blind turns (radio your presence to possible oncoming traffic) etc. Coming in was the slowest I’ve ever run the boat mostly in neutral and coasting with an occasional engaging of the starboard or port transmission for steerage and minimal speed. Crew was positioned on the bow as a lookout and headsets used to warn me of the rock ledges on the sides. Did I say the channel was narrow ~ about 2 boat widths?
So I woke stressed about exiting in the morning. As it was, leaving was to be late in order to wait for the incoming tide. I just couldn’t get back to sleep. Actually the marina, the basin and on site restaurant we’re very nice. Left about 10:30 am and with my lookout and tracing yesterday’s tracks on the chartplotter, I made my way back to the Atlantic without incident. The ocean was a bit bumpier than yesterday with waves running 1 and 2 feet. Winds increased through the afternoon and my course plotted last evening was to be just short of 60 nautical miles. A long distance but with higher speeds in the ocean, it should be a 3 hour day. WRONG!
As I passed south of Key Largo and on to Tavenier and then Islamorada, there were many patches of crab pots and in the sunny shimmering waves, they were very very difficult to see. Passing Islamorada and nearing Marathon, the patches of crab pots morphed into a sea of them. It didn’t seem to matter at what depth of water I ran. It’s both crab and lobster season down here. Lines of white pots running this way with lines of red ones intersecting and running that way. In between would be lines of impossible to see black or blue pots and then there’s the lines of green ones. Since were running out of colors, this red line is marked with TWO red floats instead of one at each location. Literally, there were times where I had to change directions 3 times in the space of 1.5 or 2 boat lengths. It became a slow and stressful and tiring day. But finally around 4:30 pm I arrived at my ‘home’ for the next couple of months. And a nice home it is going to be.
As there won’t be travel the next few weeks, upcoming blog posts will be fewer and more in line with ore typical sightseeing.
New Yers Eve Day brought a new (almost) experience.
Some 40-45 yrs ago I thought nothing of heading out on our 30’ sport fisher onto rough Lake Mich in 5’ and greater waves. I remember wavesbreaking on the foredeck and washing up and over the flybridge and even, once, washing the chairs in the rear cockpit right out of the boat (crossing the Grand Traverse Bay from Charlevoix to Northport). Or in that same time frame, heading out of the fairly treacherous St Lucie Channel in Stuart, FL miles out into the Atlantic to fish In a 22’ SeaRay (also had break over the boat).
Years have passed and with them, bravado. The big waters now make me nervous. So today, for the first time in decades and For the first time with Last Resort I ventured into the Atlantic. I came close north of Jekyll Island a couple of months ago when I crossed St Andrews Sound and probably came within a 10th of a mile from exiting the Sound and entering the ocean. If you read my last post I’ve been watching for a weather window to run from Miami to Key Largo and on to my winter destination, Marathon Fl. The inside route via the ICW is a shallow shallow slow route. Reports are in some areas that there are so many crab pots that you can almost walk on water. The outside, ocean, route adds maybe 10 miles or so but is in deeper water, no crab pots and double or more speed.
As reported in my prior post, I planned on leaving yesterday (Mon) but cancelled when I saw how much better of a travel day today and tomorrow would be. It was worth the extra days wait. After a brief light early morning fog, the grey skies turned a cloudless blue. Humidity dropped significantly, temps were in the mid to upper 70s and winds diminished to about 7mph. And so, after waiting for a foot of incoming tide to raise the boat off the bottom, I left Pelican Harbor Marina, my home for the past 8 days, headed for the police dock to the house with the green awning and into the main channel. Five bridges later, two of which required an opening (40 min of total wait) I entered Government Cut towards the Ocean. Govt Cut is the channel for all the cruise ships out of Miami but none were in port today. Out of Govt Cut I entered the ocean for the first time this trip and in decades.
The waves for the entire leg were 1’ and less. For the most part I ran between 3 to 5 miles offshore. Not that much to see but a much speedier trip than I’m used to.
Friday, 12/20/19 I was unable to extend my slip for more nights at the marina in Ft Lauderdale but did find availability for 2 nights at Bill Bird Marina, part of the Miami-Dade park system, 14 nm south. Am guessing I’ll be able to extend beyond the two nights due to the holidays and weather. The weather continues to be poor with the forecast showing the next weather window on Christmas Day and the day after. So lines were untied and Last Resort headed out into the heavy winds. Only 5 bridges and 3 openings encountered.
A decent marina built by politicians with public funds. Unfortunately it’s also managed by bureaucrats as well. On approach, about a mile+ out, I hailed the marina probably a dozen or more times over a half hour on both the hailing channel 16 and their published working channel 68 seeking entry instructions, slip assignment and to request dock hand help with lines in the extreme winds. No response. Made several calls on my cell and the calls went to voice mail. Left messages for my requests and asked for a return phone call. No return phone call.
Finally entered the marina basin and circled, while calling and hailing, the dockmaster office. Still nothing. Saw no one on the docks. After 20 minutes circling and trying to get their attention, I did a temporary tie on the face dock . Did the long walk to the Dockmaster office. There was a receptionist at the phone desk and a uniformed lady (Dockmaster) leaning on the desk counter, both deep in personal conversation. Remembering that I still hadn’t checked in and that I’d most likely be asking to extend, I put on my most cordial voice. I did explain that there had been ‘issues’ whereupon she explained they were short handed by 6 people and THEY HAD BOTH BEEN TO LUNCH! I did pleasantly remind her that they had voice mail messages from me from over an hour before and here they were chatting when I walked in and showing my phone while maintaining my most cordial voice, noted my phone was not yet ringing with a call back..
They told me what slip I was to go to but they have no marina map for me to look at. I said I’d be doing a stern in and asked which side of the boat I should pre set lines and fenders. Extremely windy, good current and I wanted to be prepared ahead of time. With the high winds, I wanted to have the finger pier to leeward so the wind would blow me into the pier rather than into the boat next to me. They absolutely had no clue whether I needed to set up for a starboard or port tie and no clue which side of the slip would have the finger pier. So much for being a dockMASTER. So I did the extra 1/2 mile walk to see where the slip was etc and then went to the boat to set up.
Bringing the boat to the slip, I discover that it’s too narrow (about 6” on either side) plus on the outside piling there was a nest (like 3) of lines hanging well down in the water. The wind was bringing their bitter ends near the surface and my approach, in reverse, roiled the water more actually floating the lines midway into the well. No dockmaster, no dock hands! It’s not only a bad thing to foul a line in your prop costing you a diver’s time, it’s a very dangerous one. A heavy line in a prop will stall an engine which you don’t want to have happen in close quarters and heavy wind. Your neighbor doesn’t want your heavy boat hitting his.
I made about 10 tries, with one taking out a small corner of my swim platform on the piling, and gave up. In dead calm, I could have threaded that needle. Rarely do I need even a second pass and this was the first time to concede defeat. Not helpful not having someone on the dock to catch and quickly tie off a line or two. So I headed back to the prior spot on the face dock, tied up again and called the dockmaster and told her where I was tied. Turned out the big boat that is in this face dock slip is actually in a yard somewhere for some repairs and I’m welcome to stay in this very easy slip Friday and Saturday night. Running a marina full of expensive boats with staff that doesn’t care to learn the basics of the Marina property they supervise and with a lack of manpower to operate safely, is inexcusable. But it’s government🤬
The short trip on a grey day was not without interest though. More lavish mansions after lavish mansions, more obscene yachts after obscene yachts. And through Port of the Everglades, dozens of cruise ships being loaded and unloaded.
Sunday was still a crummy day with very heavy winds straight out of the East. Made for a rolly time in the slip. I found out that the occupant of this slip is not coming back till Monday morning so I can stay another night. The dockmaster says there are no more slips. I think there are and it’s just poor management. There are numerous gaps between boats on the face dock – gaps paced out at 200-250’. Based on power pedestal placement the gaps are meant to be occupied by multiple vessels and the smaller 3/4” size of the dock lines indicate occupancy by 50-70’ vessel which would mean even if the boat returned, there would still be something like 150’ Of available space with power. I just don’t think government mgt has the experience or incentive to run a tight ship and maximize the utility of the marina. But it’s their enterprise, not mine. Hoping that Monday morning finds some relief in wind strength and direction and that I can find some space elsewhere. At least if I have to anchor out, it won’t be a weekend in a busy metropolitan boating city.
Sunday night brought a tornado watch for the entire night. My phone screeched me awake at 3 am broadcasting a flood alert. 4” of rain reported and 45 mph winds. But I’m already in my ark and tied and blown/pinned securely to the faced dock so it was back to sleep. Weather had marginally improved in the morning so I called the dockmaster office (it’s nearly a half mile walk) to see if there was a possibility of extending another night. Surprise! No one answered the phone and as of this writing, 4 hours later, my voice mail has not been returned. Winds were down to 11 mph and sun alternated with fog.
Found another Miami-Dade Park system marina 4-5 miles further south. Called and they had slippage for tonight (Mon) and Tues and indicated I could extend over Christmas if desired. So after the fog finally lifted for good, I started south down Biscayne Bay to Pelican Island Marina. It is built on a spoil island. Negatives are that there are no ATONs (Aids To Navigation) like signs and bouys to use to navigate from the main channel to the marina and the Bay is shallow – out of the main Bay channel there’s only a foot beneath my keel. Official navigation help was
“between the bridge and the first channel marker, you will see a house on the mainland West Bank. The house has a green awning. Looking the other way you should be able to make out a beige/cream colored building on the east bank. When between the two, turn left/towards the mid point of a police boat dock in front of the beige building and follow in a line from the awning to that mid point. When you get to the dock, take a hard turn to port and aim for and alongside the marina bulkhead in front of you.” (Note – the awning was not a bright Caribbean green but undistinguishable Forest Green)
Five-ten grand less spent on their beautiful two story dockmaster quarters complete with large 50 person capacity conference room and spent instead on 4 private channel markers might have been a better decision but I guess it’s close enough for government work. I arrived, pumped out, fueled up, got my slip assignment and after plowing mud with my props, found my slip and got settled for at least two nights. It’s actually very nice here, very “Florida-ish” complete with a big sandy beach and picnic tables and the marina has a very helpful staff and very wind protected slips so this should be a relaxing stay.
Christmas Eve day. Slept in and that was wonderful. A beautiful blue sky, mid 70’s day! Put in a order via Instacart to Publix for normal provisioning as well as for preparing nice Christmas and New Years Day dinners, carted it a hundred or so feet to the boat and stowed it. Enough work for the day! Wishing a Blessed Christmas to everyone.
Christmas Day was another clear blue sky day and I extended my stay here for another night. The Bay seemed as quiet as a mouse. Took a nice little walk along their beach. Got the grill out in anticipation of grilled steaks. Gotta be flexible when boating. Not enough propane left to even heat the grill. So into the freezer go the steaks and out of the freezer and into the Instant Pot goes the New Years Day roast. EZ PEAZY. New to-do list item – propane fill.
Thursday 12/26. Alarm set. Up for an early start. Oops. Yesterday was a holiday and I didn’t check the weather forecast. Though protected in this slip, it seems weather around me has deteriorated. Small craft warnings both off shore and in shore. Waves to be 7-9’ off shore (there goes taking the shorter quicker ocean route) and 4-6’ inshore route through big Biscayne Bay. And it looks similar now for a couple of days. No rush, still have a week to run the 100 or so miles to Marathon.
In case you’re interested, for weather, I use the weather forecasts as shown on TV for a macro view but very inadequate for marine forecasts. VHF Channels 1,2, and 3 are NOAA weather channels on my marine radios and they provide more marine specific info, but again a ‘big’ picture. I also have a half dozen weather apps and the one I use most is “WINDY”. Since I’m not going to travel today, I’ll use a bit of time to show what I see this morning on Windy.
So that’s why, even though there’s no rocking and rolling in the slip, today is an in-port day. And it’s looking like it may stay that way for another few days. And the fact that the current municipal Marina is only $1.50 per foot per night vs $3.50 in Key Largo has nothing at all to do with waiting out the weather here vs there😎. Ended up staying through the weekend hoping for a Monday departure. Well, a Monday departure has morphed into Tuesday, Happy New Years Eve.
Went to my bunk last night thinking that I could probably sleep in. Today (Weds) was forecasted to be thunderstorms all day with winds of 10-20 mph out of the north. But I set my alarm for 7 am and later changed it to 7:30am so I could get up and have a “look see” before heading back down for more shuteye. Well, there were grey skies but no rain and no wind. Radar projections showed no rain in the 3 hr projection and so I left heading south towards Ft Lauderdale.
It turned out to be a long long day. The ICW here is truly a concrete canyon. Covered 41 nm today with 17 bridges. About half of those were low enough that it required opening and only one of thos was an ‘open on request”. The balance opened on a schedule such as on the hour and half hour or 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. Most, practically all, of the run is “no wake” with good sections of “idle speed”. Makes it hard to ‘time the bridges’ so there were numerous times of holding position in front of a bridge waiting for the witching hour. These bridges do no open even a minute early. So the 41nm took 7 hours.
It was not a great day for pictures – too gloomy. Nonetheless while waiting for a bridge, I did get a pic of Mar a Lago on the day our President was impeached😖.
I looked hard to see if the Donald or Melania were on the shore waving to have one of his first supporters come on over for lunch. No such luck.
Some observations though. Along the entire 41 mile route I have never seen so many Trump 2020 flags – many huge. Apparently there are a lot of folks who like this economy and want it to continue. Another observation – this is a rich country. Literally 1000’s of multi million $ homes and most appear to be second (or more) homes (not yet opened up for the season). I wonder how many billions or maybe trillions of residential real estate I passed today. And the there are the yachts – what can I say?
Thursday also was a FL east coast balmy, blustery and mostly rainy day. Under a gale warning all day though I don’t think the winds ever reached that velocity. Predictions for the next week indicate lower rain possibilities but continuing strong winds. Will have to figure something out as this slip is spoken for Friday afternoon and on.
Walked across a block, across A1A, Thursday evening for dinner at Bubba Gump. Disappointing both as to menu selection (I was looking for more shrimp dishes) and food prep. I settled on the Lt Dan platter of baby backs and skewered shrimp. Ribs were fine but the shrimp were split/butterflied with the shells still on and overdone. The flesh was like rubber and it was actually not possible to peel the shell off. You needed to gnaw it like corn on the cob. Gary Sinese, you need to reclaim your stage name. Bubba Gump, you are a shrimp place ~ learn how to prepare your signature dishes! On the other hand, BGump is located on the beach and though dark, the lights and crashing surf made for a pleasant evening.
An early (ish) morning departure. Today, Monday, will be a complete ICW run with lots of bridges. In fact, the entire run from South of Jupiter through Miami will be bridge city with many requiring openings. The barrier islands along this route are highly developed with luxury homes and high rises and local government can’t get away with bridges every 20 or more miles so the bridges are frequent. Further, with that many bridges, the government budget can’t afford very many 65’ clearance high bridges so most are in the 14’ – 25’ clearance range and open on the 1/2 and 1 hour. I require 21.5’ clearance so there will be lots of bridge opening timing or waiting for the bridges to open.
Remember well the route from Jensen Beach south to Jupiter. Some 40-45 yrs ago I was down here with the 22’ Sea Ray and with Sharon and the girls we did that route as a day trip. It was quite the adventure for us then. The water color at the Jupiter Inlet is incredible and inspiring.
It was a fairly windy day and generally overcast and with the bridges, a nearly 6 hour transit ending with a nice slip at Riviera Beach Marina. I like their system. Made reservations while on the way (it’s busy down here) and they confirm the ressie with a text which includes a diagram of the marina and directional arrows to your assigned slip. Very helpful. The city has done a great job of developing their waterfront including a nice restaurant within a very easy stroll.
The wind really picked up straight out of the south all day Tuesday, so I elected to stay here another night. No need to be in a rush as I have 2 weeks to get to Marathon.
Friday, 11/15/19. Today was another soggy day! I could have split today’s days leg over a couple days but just wanted to get it over with. Even ran into maybe a mile or so of good (actually bad) fog but the instruments made it easy to follow the channel. My destination, Fort Pierce, will be “home” for a few weeks.
Today’s leg was just under 63 nm completed in a little less than 6 hrs. I am docked in a slip at another condo project private marina. I visited this marina by car a year ago. At that time there was a very nice 50’ Novatec for sale which I really wanted to see. I spent three days trying to arrange it through Curtis Stokes brokerage but apparently they had something better to do that week than to sell a boat. Back then, I drove into the marina parking lot and walked the dock multiple times each day before finally giving up. By the time folks got around to actually show the boat I was in Myrtle Beach looking at a different boat. So now I’m back – but by boat, my boat.
Monday I had the boat hauled out of the water and blocked on dry land at Cracker Boy Boat Yard. Cracker Boy is a DIY facility where they provide the haul out, optional bottom pressure wash and space for the boat to be blocked while being worked on. The space includes a power pedestal so the boat fridges etc can continue to operate. Unfortunately the heat and air conditioning need raw water to function so they are not operational. For work you don’t want to do yourself, that’s me, the yard is semi ringed by small bldgs etc of independent contractors who you can independently hire or you can also hire tradesmen from anywhere.
To be free of having to accept whoever and whatever a marina sends/says is great and while a typical marina may discourage you from direct supervision (‘insurance prohibits customers past this line’ type of thing) the DIY yard is the opposite – in fact you can live, cook, sleep on the boat, if you wish, so long as you can climb the ladder up to the boat. I could and I did. The yard does keep a list of contractors by trade that they’ve found to be responsive and responsible – really nice if you are unfamiliar with the area.
After hauling, I was pleased to see that the bottom was quite clean and did not even require pressure washing. Based on the diver’s report back in June/July of a badly scratched bottom, I was expecting that the bottom might need repainting ($$$) while hoping maybe I could get away with just touch up. No painting was required!
The hull and topsides were severely oxidized and there were some areas that were marked up from docks. There are also some areas of fiberglass cracks at stress points (some cleats), some age related minute spider cracks and a couple of pitted areas. Water can intrude at these places and water under the fiberglass is a severe enemy. Some prior repair had been done without proper bonding and was chipping and flaking off. Some prior ‘repaired’ areas had paint that was not matched well and had lots of orange peel. So I hired a company that does fiberglass work and detailing. The glass work will be fixed. The boat will be compounded from top to the waterline, from front to back, first with a cutting compound followed by a second round of a more medium grit and a third round of a fine polishing grit before then being completely waxed. The crew started the morning following the haul out and has been there from 7am to 4-5pm, 6 days a week for nearly 3 weeks. Most days it was two men and some days 3. What a difference it makes to have the boat detailed.
I also had Island Electronics (the company that installed the new electronics last May) install a new through hull depth finder transducer since the boat was now out of the water. The boat has never had a thru hull finder before. Until now, the transducer was located physically inside the hull and ‘shot’ energy through the hull. I was nervous watching them drill a 3” round hole in the bottom of the boat for this new transducer to go in and physically have contact with the water. Supposed to be more reliable and accurate. I was also 2 software releases behind on the chartplotter so after updating, they calibrated the transducer to display depth under keel.
Also done while out of the water was replacing all the external sacrificial zincs (will replace the engine, tranny and genny zincs when in Marathon), rebedding a 6’ section of run rail and some other small items. Both props were a bit loose and the port side had lost the cotter pin behind the jam nut. So both props were tightened down etc.. And while staying aboard but not having to travel, I sanded down and refinished some pilot house interior woodwork.
Staying aboard In an active boat yard was interesting. Boats of all sizes and styles being hauled and others launched everyday.
I got to see boats being literally totally being rebuilt while others had just the bottoms painted. Watched props being taken off, new shafts installed and the yard crane taking an engine out through the cabin door while another boat receives a new engine being dropped in via the cockpit.
When Last Resort is returned to water, it’ll be time to change the engine and transmission fluid and filters. Intend to do that in Marathon and without a mechanic for the first time.
I also took a dreaded (I hate flying – the 2nd best place to get sick right after a hospital) flight north to cold northern VA for Thanksgiving with daughter Vic, Jon and grandkids. Enjoyed the holiday and of course Thanksgiving dinner, thank you. Grandkids arrived from southern VA, Oklahoma and Minnesota. And then, after a 3 am Saturday wake up, it was over and I joined a multitude on the flights back home to the boat. The airports were sure busy Saturday and I was happy to get back to a holiday-quiet boatyard. And yes, I’ve had a horrid head/chest cold ever since I got back.
The crew finished their detailing on Friday (12/6/19) afternoon but the yard’s scheduling for splashing boats was already full for Saturday so I did some reprovisioning in anticipation of a Monday morning splash. The weather has warmed back up a bit so the last couple of nights have been more comfortable for sleeping. I think there were 4 or 5 straight nights of temps in the low 40s and without heat, it was a bit chilly sleeping. Guess the head cold I got should not be surprising.
Saturday night, feeling crappy, I headed to my bunk early only to hear loud noises shortly after. Very unusual as the yard is like a morgue at night. As far as I can tell, I and the guy next to me are the only two who stay on their boat – he’s been here 70 days rebuilding his bow pulpit and will also be relaunched on Monday. So I got in my sweats and went out on my bow. There were dozens of cars in the lot and young rag muffins running all over – even using the big straps on the boat hoist as swings. Doesn’t today’s generation have any sense of control over their kids? Let me answer that. There was a car parked in the narrow passage between my boat and the boat on the other side of me (where you see the scaffolding in the first repair picture above). There were kids running and playing ‘tag’ under our boats. Then another carload came and tried to park their car in the same narrow passageway.
Ever the ogre and not thinking anyone of those folks could begin to pay for the damage they could do if they only hit one of the blocks holding the boats up, I told them to move. The guy got very argumentative and I thank his wife for calming him down and convincing him to park elsewhere. Not sure where security disappeared to.
So my neighbor and I were on our respective bows and he told me that the Fort Pierce Christmas Boat Parade was supposed to come into the basin between Cracker Boy and the very busy Harbortown Restaurant across the basin. I abandoned my plan for an early shuteye, opened up a seat on the flybridge and awaited the festivities.
Am guessing, but perhaps the story got around down by the dock edge because maybe a half hour into the wait, 4 kids came near the boat and called up to me that they and their parents were going to go get some meatball subs and would I like to join them. I didn’t but appreciated the gesture.
The parade consisted of about a dozen or so boats most of which were modestly decorated. One of the better boats was probably 24-26’ with a sleigh fashioned in the stern and white reindeer rising up over the bow. The captain, I think, had imbibed a bit for he seemed rather reckless in crowded quarters on a dark nite. The star of the show was a three story tug boat that was festooned with lights and music (and loud horn). I enjoyed watching it and getting some pics from my perch on the flybridge. It was fun and the yard returned to solitude within 15 minutes of the parade ending.
One last surprise while here was that my niece from MI came down to her place in Nettles Island, about 15 miles south on the Intracoastal, and called today so got to have lunch and a nice visit along the Fort Pierce inlet. Thanks Joan!
Monday 12/9/19, a beautiful cloudless day, the boat was splashed at 11 am. It was so nice to be back in the water and, since the weather is warming up again, it is good to be able to open the through hull to the air conditioning water pump so as to have AC or heat for the first time in 3 weeks.
Took all of two or three minutes after touching the water to being underway to the Harbor Isles Condominium’s marina for a few days to wait out some weather and to put the boat back together for travel before resuming the southward trek.
And so, after a month in Ft Pierce, I headed out on a boat with all nicks and blemishes freshly repaired on a shiny clean boat.
Thursday. This was going to be my last blog post till some time after Thanksgiving or early December. Now it’s not only the last for awhile but it will be short. Seems like after my voyage from Daytona Beach to Cocoa Beach, instead of stopping the voyage on NEBO, the mapping/tracking program I use, I tapped on the Delete icon instead of Stop. So the program dutifully deleted the log. So I’ll substitute a screenshot of my nav chart with all the planned waypoints.
Total mileage for the day was just over 60 nm over 5.5 hours. Found a slip at Cocoa Village Marina associated with a cond development in Cocoa Beach. Another grey day. Finished it off with a dinner of Bangers and Mash at a English style pub a block away
Well no race but off to Daytona Beach. With one exception, it was an easy calm travel day. About 10 miles south of St Augustine I came to Mantanzas Pass.
There have been reports of dredges working the pass over the past month plus. Literally not a day goes by without reports of numerous boats going aground. In addition to severe shoaling, the channel, such as it is, is narrow. This is complicated by the fact that there are 3 dredges working plus 3 tugs all of which take up what channel there is. It’s a game of Dodgem. The captain on the main dredge is helpful — if only he was understandable. The directions for southbound traffic was to head starboard to the western bank and when you get to the bow of the dredge, hard to port and cross right in front of it and immediately past it, head starboard again right along side the dredge – like close enough to shake hands with the dredge operator. The problem has been the boats can’t turn fast and close enough and are too far away from the dredge. So I’d been dreaming, bad dreams, and dreading this pass for a few days.
By this morning the dredge had moved a couple hundred feet And one of the little tugs was deployed at the corner to force your turn. That plus timing to go through within an hour of high tide made the passage easy. Whew!!
Wednesday was a horrible weather day. Rain started Tues night and it turned cold and very very windy. The wind came straight out of rhe north and down the ICW slot. I was on the inside of the outer face dock, no break wall, with the stern directly facing north. The waves, and yes there were waves and whitecaps came bashing into my stern. The swim platform was almost continually well awash with water. I have a fairly heavy step I use to get from the swim platform to a dock which I place on a heavy rubber backed mat (to keep everything from sliding) on the swim platform. This morning the rubber mat had washed away and the step was washed and pinned against the transom. Oops!
The lousy weather and wind was forecasted to continue all day and the next leg will probably end with anchoring so rather than anchor in heavy wind I elected to stay another night. Comfy day inside and got my laundry done and watched the impeachment hearing all day. YAWN!
Saturday. A beautiful morning/day. Bright sunshine all day. Chilly – -mother 10 degrees would have been nice but based on the weather in general since leaving Norfolk, I’m not complaining. Another full day running the boat from the lower station. Shortly after leaving Brunswick southbound and after passing Jekyll Island you come to St Andrews Sound – a large open bay with an inlet to the Atlantic.
There are two passages through the Sound. This Spring I took the most used route which on the screenshot above would start at waypoint 15, head westerly to waypoint 5-6 and the s northerly through 3 to waypoint 1. There are lots of shallows and twists and turns which show better when the screenshot is zoomed in. Another route heads East to the Atlantic inlet. It’s more straight forward and deep water but far more open to the ocean. I elected this second route today and you can see my blue dotted line of my actual track. You can see from the northern most point of the route where it diverges from waypoint 1, that the route is progressively exposed to more open ocean until it does a sharp 120 degree turn back at BST04 waypoint. The winds were out of the north and the current ran heavily from the south – building waves the entire way. Mostly ran 5-6’ and breaking but the boat handled it well. I haven’t found any report on the sites I frequent of anyone actually having run that route. My opinion is that it was easier. At BST03 waypoint you can see the yellow triangle with the warning “!”. The pop up window for that warning says:
So the trip today was 57.5 nm covered in 6 hrs 20 minutes. I found a vacant spot along Sisters Creek free docks on the north side of Jacksonville, FL. It is exactly as advertised. A floating face dock next to a public launching ramp that can accommodate a half dozen or so boats. No water, no power, no dock hands, no reservations, first come first served free tie up. I took the last spot. Turned on the generator, plugged in the InstantPot and made up a mess of home made chili. Delish with 2 more meals packed and in my new freezer. (The boat came with a portable Dometic freezer that was set in the Pilothouse. there are two under counter sub zero frig/freezers in the galley plus this portable unit in the Pilothouse and an ice maker on the bridge. Anyway the portable died in Charleston and two days later, my friend Amazon delivered a new larger portable to the dock.)
I’ve been trying to find availability for two months in the Keys. I had previously secured a slip for January and this afternoon I received a call back from a marina and now have February covered as well. Woot!
And back to water….
Headed south from Sister Creek to St Augustine, FL. Easy transit. Beautiful day but still a bit of a chill and breeze.
St Augustine, what a great town. I can’t count the times I’ve breezed by with my impression of SA formed from I 95. I think the one time I actually stopped at SA was 21-22 yrs ago soon after we started full timing and we had our 1st 5th wheel. And I got a bad case of PTSD From that. My rig wandered down one of their narrow streets and I knew I was in deep trouble. Then I saw the street stop and it appeared that I’d not be able to cut the corner. The choice was one. Back the rig back down the street a couple of blocks to a major intersection. Sharon got out to block traffic and direct me. Finally a cop arrived and blocked the intersection so I could ‘escape’ and escape I did, totally humiliated and never to return again by vehicle. And so I triumphantly return by water.
The current was really running strong and I had a short wait at Bridge of Lions until it opened for me and the 3 sailboats. On the north side of the bridge is a very large mooring field (where floating mooring balls are anchored to the bottom to which you can tether the boat. This is a favorite anchoring way for single screw boats to hangout without having to dock with or against the currents. Immediately south if the bridge is the St Augustine Municipal Marina followed by another large even mooring field.
I received my slip assignment and direction by radio and after setting up for a stern in, starboard side tie, I proceeded to dock. It went easy though room was tight for spinning to back in. I’m 48’ long and the fairway, open distance between opposing docks, was showing only 36’. It was more and I think they post that so the captain doesn’t fall asleep. I know I stayed alert.
Hooked up to power and the dock power pedestal immediately blew a breaker. Kept trying to no avail. Let out motor cord and tried a different pedestal with no luck. Everyone said it was the new style GFI sensitive pedestal mandated for new marinas of ‘remodeled’ one several years back. Having had the boat retired last April and having been at numerous new installs this summer and never having tripped before, I didn’t or do think so. Checked all the usual suspects – on board tripped GFIs etc. resorted to turning of all boat circuit breakers, plugging in and turning breakers on one by one to find the culprit. It was the breaker for one of the galley fridges.
So everything was OK? Nope. ~ settled in and discovered that no electric plugs on the main level work.. flybridge plugs are fine. Engine room plugs too as are the plugs in the lower staterooms and heads. With salon and galley plugs dead, there’s no power to the salon TV, to the micro or the 2 fridges and the new portable freezer. Electric range was OK. Had to dump the fridge perishables. Ran an extension cord from below stateroom up to the portable freezer and got out the old ice chest/cooler for some new supplies. Another boat gremlin 🤬! Have some work scheduled already next week so will add this to the list. Guessing only receiving one leg off the 50amp circuit but concerned cause that should go away on generator but it doesn’t. [edit – Pluged in at the next Marina today and all was OK. Despite their protestations, their loose fitting plug was only connecting one leg 😄😅
The marina, in addition to its mooring fields, is quite large and filled pretty much with transient vessels. Very busy with lots of boat watching. Right across the narrow street from it is old town St Augustine. Restaurant and art gallery Mecca. Really cool town for walking.
Shoved off this morning on another dreary day. Enough already! Never saw the sun till mid afternoon. Went through a number of areas known for shallow, narrow shoaling water, most notably Hells Gate. My depth sounder has decided to quit so it showed 19.3’ of water the whole way while the chart plotter showed the entire width for 5 miles in a deep red color – extremely shallow. I traced, slowly, Bob423’s route and emerged from the south end unscathed. The run again today (Thurs) was over 7 hours and my longest single day distance yet. At ICW speeds and curves and switchbacks, that was a long day.
I’m sure most or all of you have heard about the “Golden Ray”. It was a car carrier that grounded and then capsized in the Brunswick GA harbor a month or so ago. It had 4,200 new cars in the hold. It is still there big as life. They are erecting, or going to erect, a steel wall/dam around it. Then they will pump the water out of the entire area. Once the ship is no longer ‘in the water’, they will cut the ship apart with torches and remove it section by section. Suggest you all beware of bargain basement priced Kias and Mercedes next year. Brunswick is the host of 40 overseas car carriers per month with some carrying 8,000 vehicles. The pic below does not do it justice.
Friday turned out to be lousy weather as well so I extended a day and spent some time getting chores done.
With a relatively long day planned, I left the dock early, or at least early for me. It was an easy run but slow due to many shallow spots and continual course changes and switchbacks. It was also cold. It was after 1 pm before I ventured up to the flybridge and even then it required a good jacket.
I barely had time to take a nap upon arrival in Beaufort SC before it started to get dark. What a bummer! Maybe we need to reconsider moving the clocks back.
Nothing shakin going on in Beaufort so it was early to bed. Woke up Tuesday to rain and rain. Decided to head back below to continue my sleeping. Late afternoon it became pleasant but it was too late to leave and head to another port. Weds proved to be a dry day albeit chilly and completely grey. Saw a sliver of a sunset and that was as close to a nice day as it got. I kept wondering all day if the fog was going to descend but it didn’t.
First time since owning the boat that I spent zero time piloting from the flybridge. Even ran a couple hours with the generator on so that there was heat.
Was planning on stopping at Savannah but since it was not even 1 pm when I hit Savannah, I decided to just continue on. Found another marina about 20 miles further south at the southern end of Skidaway Island. The entrance to Delegal Creek and the marina was a bit counterintuitive. You could see it but the way to it was a bit convoluted. By phone, the marina assured us to follow the markers and not to pay attention to the charts. I did but watched the charts as they showed the boat going across dry land. A post or two ago I mentioned that NOAA basic charts are sometimes dated. The last charting showing that dry land was 1976!…And apparently the Corp of Engineers hasn’t surveyed since.
Anyway, following the markers was the trick. The marina is excellent! The dockhand was great. The area is a chichi area (wrong word since the pretentiousness isn’t there) and very typical Georgian Coastal. The marina was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew (2016) and has been totally rebuilt. The area reminds me of Jekyll Island, Hilton Head, or Amelia Is., FL.
Borrowed the golf cart and did the 6 mile round trip to Publix to ‘touch up’ the perishables before returning to the boat for leftover spaghetti. BTW, last night I made the spaghetti in the instant pot pressure cooker. All made together in one pot and under pressure for 8 minutes. Seemed strange to just layer uncooked spaghetti over the ground beef with sauce covering and no stirring. I think it was the best spaghetti – home cooked or restaurant. It was fabulous.
So I’m now back in GA and have traveled a little more than 2,250 miles since leaving the Sarasota area.
A very short travel day done, for reasons explained below, at super slow speed. I will remain in Charleston for 9 days.
Being a Saturday, I wanted a reasonable start to miss some of the crazy weekend traffic and afternoon rain (which didn’t materialize till 8 pm). But I didn’t want to arrive till noonish or after to minimize the heavy fast current (2.5 knots) at Charleston’s City Marina. Slack tide was to be at 1:39pm. The ocean inlet is only a few miles east and there are numerous rivers at Charleston with currents ebbing and flowing. So this run was by far the slowest that I’ve done and even so I burned an extra 45 or so minutes waiting til 1 pm to dock.
The City Marina is very large in every way befitting a major harbor. It has over 15000 lineal feet of docks and the country’s longest transient floating fuel dock. In the picture above you can see Last Resort correctly positioned on the inside of what is named The Mega Dock. The walk from Last Resort to the cross dock and then to shore is 1/2 mile. Did I say I get more exercise boating than I did living in the condo? Anyway, they can fuel from every foot along the whole length, both sides, of this massive dock. They berth boats on both sides of this face dock. When the dock is busy, as it is now, you are assigned a space along the dock and if the boats in front and behind are already in place, you need to exercise your parallel parking skills to get into your space.
The space in front and behind me were already occupied so I had to shoehorn my 50’ into an empty 60’ slot. I was glad it was nearly slack tide. All went well – EZ in. Quite different from last Feb when I bought Last Resort and it took a full month to work up the courage to take it out of the slip. This boat is sooo easy to maneuver, knock on wood.
After taking my post-docking nap 😃 I came up to the salon to find the sun disappearing even though it was only mid afternoon. The empty slot on the outside/across the dock from me was getting A new occupant And blocking the sun😄. The low cabin 70’ sailboat fueling across the dock was now gone and a larger vessel was going to dock for the night. So as to not be obvious 😂😂😂 (docking is always a spectator sport) I went up on the flybridge to watch it dock.
“It” was 154’ and the slot was barely 165’ and the current was now ripping. The captain missed, significantly, on his first try. Having taken stock of wind and current, he did a 360 and tried again.
He succeeded. The loud sound you hear, in the video, over the wind is the vessel’s bow thruster motor (engine?) being worked overtime. Towards the end of the video you will see that the captain got his stern within 2’ of the bow of the 75’ green charter catamaran in order to have room to swing the bow in. 10 crew members and 2 marina dock hands and no panic. If I owned and had been on board the cat, I would have panicked.
Most every boat along this dock is 60’ or more. There must be well more than a dozen exceeding 100’. And then, at the end, is a “BiggerIt” – one at a mere 250’. It’s beam is 44’ – only 4’ less than Last Resort’s length. ‘Bigger It” is aka “BELLA VITA”. When I walked past it this evening I surreptitiously peeked towards the lower aft deck windows. There must be at least 60’ of aft length inside space filled with two big power boat runaboutS, pwc’s and other toys. The 100’ sport fish with immense tuna tower, docked next to it, looks tiny in comparison. I found it curious that there were no power cords running to these two mega yachts. The marinas apparently do not have enough power capacity for them (despite large movable mega yacht power booster ‘carts’ scattered along the dock) and so these boats use their own generators. Not even a whisper of sound from the generator! Incidentally, the ‘ Bigger It”, a Lurssen yacht, is available for charter for a mere $650,000 and change per WEEK (includes crew and towels😎, I think).
It’s been 3 days here in Charleston, so far, and weather has been deteriorating each day. Not nice enough to go sightseeing. Will be here for a half dozen more days (crew needs to fly north for a doctor’s appointment) so hoping weather gets better as I’d like to see a bit of the city.
Meanwhile I haven’t been wasting time. Over the past couple of months, have been researching marinas in the Keys for part of the winter. I’d also like to cross over to the Bahamas for part of the winter. Finding a place in the Keys hasn’t been easy.
I don’t want to move every day and most marinas from the middle keys to Key West seem to have repeat seasonal visitors – sort of like all of FL in the winter. Plus most marinas, it seems, lease their under water bottom from the state (vs owning your parcel of LAND and then excavating your LAND to dig a marina on YOUR land in which case you own the bottom). So most lease bottom right from the state and when dealing with a government, everything is screwed up. The leases, it appears, limit those marinas to having mariners stay on board their vessels for no more than 7 days per month. That’s a problem when you are living aboard. I find it hard to understand a state that has the country’s highest tourism budget but then discourages wintertime stays on a boat – all because there are some former live aboard boats which, after hurricanes, have become derelict and a blight on some wealthy, politically connected contributer’s visual horizon. Rather than addressing derelicts and budgeting for removal, just make the boaters move. Off soapbox. So anyway, it’s been a problem.
So yesterday I saw a post from a boater who was enjoying a 3 day stay in a marina in Marathon – my #1 choice of Keys – a stay obtained as a door prize at a northern trawler rendezvous. The boater was raving about it and I hadn’t heard of the place before. A little research showed it was primarily marketed as a gated resort community of new homes built as a rental alternative to a hotel. It was started in 2006 but the real estate turndown bankrupted the developer well before he finished. An unusual project, it languished incomplete til acquired by an investment group in 2016. It took 2 yrs to complete including a marina and so 2018 was the first season. The resort is still working on developing its clientele.
Finding the explanation to make sense, I contacted them and they returned my email inquiry with a phone call with 30 minutes. A major departure from a Keys marina tradition of not returning inquiries for days, if ever. I was told they had good and bad news. Good news – they had availability for me for both months. Bad news – under the terms of their lease, as a brand new marina, with the State, I could only live aboard for 1 month. Moderating news – they are changing their company documents which should allow them to have live aboard for 2 months and expect the entire process complete within the next two months. Would I like to take a chance?
After conversations over two days, I decided to take the month of January. The resort agreed that if the 2 month live aboard was approved, I would be able to extend in that slip for another month – in effect renting that slip in Feb to anyone else would be off the table unless I agreed. I would continue to look for a slip for Feb and if I found one I’d release them from their Feb obligation Immediately and if I changed my mind and decided to just go to the Bahamas or elsewhere earlier, I’d similarly release them. So I have a place to stay in the Keys and not just a place but a spectacular one. Hopefully I will have a signed agreement today. More on that in future posts.
I received an email asking some questions about navigation charts. I’ll try to answer here, based on my limited knowledge, on the assumption it may be of interest to others.
So what do I have?
Decades ago, when boating on Lake Michigan, I used paper charts. I think that’s all that was available. There wasn’t much more of a need than a chart being updated every 5 or 10 years as Lake Mich didn’t shoal that much and was not subject materially to tides. One just needed to pay attention to weather and, back in those days, watch out for an Ark filled with animals. The marine charts I was and am familiar with are produced by NOAA.
Speaking of today, they make thousands and thousands of changes and corrections during the year but produce the printed chart available in marina stores etc only once per year. So a chart segment printed last month can be out of date this month due to the effects of a bad storm. Printed charts can be obtained in the interim ‘On Demand’ from special sources. Paper charts are expensive and cumbersome – paper charts take storage room. Hello charts in bits and bytes!
So what do I have/use? I have a hybrid – like a layer cake – and it’s available on multiple sources.
I also use an app called Aqua Maps which is downloaded on my iPhone and my iPad. It has the same info as the basic charts. What it also has is, for an enhanced modest subscription fee, more features.
I choose to have my basic NOAA electronic chart via my chartplotter furnished by Garmin. It can be updated annually or by subscription anytime. Garmin adds the thousands of correction & updates but only furnishes them on demand if you pay. These basic charts show the oceans, lakes, rivers with depths, obstructions, markers, buoys, lighthouses, shipwrecks, mariner notes etc. The Garmin electronic version has a magenta line to follow mid channel and an iconic representation of your boat’s accurate gps position on that chart. The chart and your boat scrolls as you move like the little car and map does on an car gps. Also added are icons for marinas, anchorages etc which, when you touch them, expand to a drop down info box (user ratings, available services, up to date fuel prices, dockage fees, phone numbers, depth, navigation tips etc.
While NOAA is tasked with, in the US, the basic charting, the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) is charged with maintaining navigable depths in harbors, designated inlets and the ICW. They also maintain the country’s locks. The US Coast Guard has the responsibility for placing and maintaining in place buoys and day markers. Yes they do move or get destroyed occasionally. So the USACE surveys/sounds the waterway for shoaling and depths quite frequently and they map their findings. Aqua Map acquires the maps that show shoaling and as part of their extended subscription allows the user to download the color coded USACE map and overlay it on top of the Aqua Map basic chart. There is generally an updated overlay along the east coast ICW each day or two. I can send the updates to my laptop and from there download to a SD card which then can go into my Garmin card reader and transfer to my main chart plotter.
But the layering is not finished. I also use info from another online source – a sailboater who maintains a blog and a Facebook page under the name Bob423. He travels north each Spring from the Jupiter FL area to the mid Chesapeake area and reverses it each fall. When the USACE determines that an area needs dredging, it draws up a detailed plan‘ how deep, how wide, how long, and at what headings for each segment. USACE monitors the dredging contract to determine that it is exactly performed. So Bob423 gets copies of all the contract specs, plots a projected course to take advantage of the new dredging and overlays it over the USACE AquaMaps chart.
Those too can be imported to a card and downloaded to my main chartplotter. Another layer on the chart cake.
Finally Bob423 lays down a track when he runs north and again south showing every little turn he makes and publishes those so one can see what he ran vs what he projected. The track is also published, can be imported to a card etc – the frosting so to speak on top of the basic NOAA chart. Everything he does is available without charge.
So there is more to traveling the ICW than pointing the boat in the right direction and staying between the banks. Running outside, a few miles in the ocean, is easier navigation, probably bumpier waves, faster but less interesting. Either way can be tiring.
Also while here in Charleston, I took the marina shuttle van downtown for lunch followed by an hour horse drawn carriage tour through the historic area. Some fascinating logistics. Charleston is surrounded by water on 3 sides. Rigid historic preservation is enforced. The city endured two wars, is very earthquake prone and has suffered at least 5 fires of 500 bldg or more destruction size since the mid 1700’s. These beautifully restored still standing waterfront area homes are expensive – as $millions plus. There are 5 carriage companies running on the city’s narrow streets and thru expensive neighborhoods. So to avoid horse and tourist congestion and too much ‘exhaust’ defacated on neighborhood streets, all 5 companies exercise mutual cooperation. First is a 15 second stop for all carriages at a small hut – Control Central. The areas of historic interest have been divided into separate routes – color coded. The driver calls out his/her name, the name of the horse and number of passengers (a head tax is paid to the city). The driver is given a color and that is the route that particular carriage will/must follow. Infractions for deviation, for holding up too much traffic when a cut out is available (a lot of the tour goes thru busy but narrow downtown streets) incur a fine of $1,070!
The horses are outfitted with leather ‘aprons’ behind their tail which funnels road apples into a container so streets stay clean. The driver has a device that looks like a remote control. If a road apple 🍎 misses the mark and reaches the street or if the horse decides that some portion of the street needs to be washed, the driver pushes a button on the remote and it ‘pings’ the exact GPS location to Control Central which dispatches a super dooper pooper scooper truck, funded by the 5 companies, to clean up the scene. I thought it interesting to see how private enterprise works together to keep the peace vs relying on government which would inevitably resort to one of two solutions – ban the carriage tours altogether
or let the crap just stay on the street until evening when residents can be further disturbed, in addition to a daylong lingering smell, by a nighttime clean up crew. The system here in Charleston must work as frequently these southern residents, walking the sidewalks or sitting on their porches, called out friendly greetings to us.
Another interesting area was the Charleston City Market. It is a 6-7 block long (narrow but long blocks) area which was built with basically open air buildings curb to curb. Kind of reminded me of Detroit’s Eastern Market or Seattle’s Pike Street Market, amongst others. Plantation owners would send their slaves here to provision the plantation and to bring plantation produced products to sell. The northern most bldg was near the Cooper River on the north side of the peninsula and was used in the early days for the fishmongers. I’m slipped on the southern side -the Ashley River. Some 6 or seven blocks away, the southern most building was for the butchers where you could have a cut of beef from a freshly, on-site butchered cow. In the 100 degree, 100% humidity of SC summers, there must have been quite a smell from one end to the other.
My 9 day stay here has turned cold and daylight continues to wane. Mornings are in the very brisk low 50s with afternoon highs in the mid to upper 60s. Time to start the ‘in earnest’ run to FL now that insurance restrictions vis a vis hurricanes no longer apply. Hoping the weather warms up and winds and rain cooperate.
Up before sunrise this morning so as to be ready to cast off at first light. About 1.5 hours ahead, at ICW speed, was an ICW section known as Minim Creek. Very shallow and shoaling. In one section, the channel is 23’ wide extreme Shallow on either side. Then about 10 miles beyond that is McClellanville where there is another couple of miles of extremely shallow water. Both areas at low tide are shallow enough that I could bottom out. Absolute low tide in those two areas would be between noon and 12:30pm. So an early start was called for meaning I should go through those areas between 9 and 10:30 am – mid falling tide.
This was planning and math done by many. By dawn, I joined about a dozen boats leaving Harbor Walk and heading south. Lots of radio chatter! By the time I reached Minim my depth sounder ‘froze’ showing a constant reading of 21.2’ and I couldn’t get it back on line. So I was unable to “see” the depth for the remainder of the day. In addition, there was a dredge halfway through Minim with attendant tugs and lots of floating dredge pipes. As I was first, I contacted the dredge for safe passing directions. The flotilla made it through the hazards and shallows and emerged unscathed on the south side😎. Outside of that it was a perfect sunny travel day. Altogether it was a 50 nm day and I am now almost 460 statute miles south of Norfolk VA and 680 statute miles south of Baltimore.
The goal for the day was to reach Isle of Palms – about 15 nm north of Charleston. Though close and my next stop, I didn’t want to handle the large commercial Charleston harbor in a breezier afternoon and when I was tired. As it was, Isle of Palms was a busy little harbor with frequent ferry traffic and lots and lots of fishing boats. And there was a good strong current running contrary to a rising breeze so backing into my slip next to the 3 wide boat launching ramp and boats around like gnats was challenging. Besides boat launchings constantly next to me, on the far side of the launch is a popular restaurant with boat tie ups and the slip next to me is occupied by a charter cruise boat. Including the sunset cruise tonight, it has been out three times since I’ve been here. Also further down the docks is a ferry service to a nearby tourist island. So there’s no lack of people or boat watching.
Beautiful travel day. Bright sunshine, light breeze and temps in the hi 60s/low 70s. Slow trip with much of it in no wake zones and at least 3 bridge openings. Also had to transit “The Rock Pile”, a 3 mile section of the ICW with many rock danger areas. Opinions seem to be split between running at high tide for max water depth or running at low tide so you can see many of the rocks. I ran at a mid rising tide. While the ICW isn’t that wide, there is a more constricted portion around a bend And oncoming traffic can’t be seen where it’s recommended to make a radio announcing that you are entering the Rock Pile and your direction and ask if there is any oncoming commercial traffic. Not the place to play dodge em with Both rock ledges and barges. Goal for the day was Osprey Marina where there was mail waiting. A three night stay waiting for mail order pharmacy to get their act together. How hard can it be to put the right state on a mail label? So Carolina and proper zip looks nothing like So Dakota and it’s proper zip. These are the folks that fill your rx’s! Always check your prescription bottles. Google your drug mfr for a pic of your pill or capsule and compare. Idiots abound in the workplace (and everywhere). Osprey is about 3-4 miles straight west of Ocean Lakes RV Resort, a mega Resort on the Atlantic and one where Sharon & I stayed many many times.
The next travel segment is a relatively long one without many ports/marinas midway to break it up. Along the way there are two bridges which will require opening and the Camp LeJune firing range any of which can create a delay. Further there are some shallow areas which the US Corps of Engineers survey shows as having shoaled even more due to Dorian. So the segment is long in distance and potentially even longer that normal in transit time. Tropical Storm Nestor is out in the Gulf and is expected to cross N FL, GA, SC before exiting to the Atlantic from NC. Winds for the upcoming weekend are consistently forecasted to be gale force for the Atlantic cast along with heavy rain. The forecast is for calm conditions come Monday. With that forecast I don’t want to anchor somewhere but rather wait it out tied up in a sheltered marina. So the choice is to stay north near the southern end of the Outer Banks or make a quick run south to Myrtle Beach area. Opted to go to Myrtle Beach to wait out the weather and am breaking the trip into three legs. The total distance would be 125 nm but not easily divided into equal or near equal segments.
So I decided that Thursday would be a short run of 17nm from Spooner Creek to Swansboro (technically Cedar Point). It would at least make Friday’s long run bearable. I got a reservation at city run, unattended Church St Dock located across from the inlet to the ocean. I was told by the person at city hall that I would side tie on the T head face dock.
There was a ripping current out to the ocean inlet. The current ran parallel with the dock while the wind was heavy directly away from and perpendicular to the dock. Being at a face dock, there were no poles or finger piers on the ‘other’ side of the boat to ‘lean’ up against and towards the open side was heavy shocking. Tie was by means of cleats mounted low on the dock and of course no one around to catch a line. Between the current pushing me down the dock and the wind pushing me away from the dock and missed attempts to lasso or drop a line around a cleat, it took 3 tries to secure a midship line and hold the boat in place while securing a second line. But happily I’m got all tied up, fenders in place and power working so all is well and leg 1 of this segment was finished.
Friday was a relatively early start to a long travel day of 71.5 nm (82 statute miles). I opted to shorten the upcoming Saturday segment by bypassing a stop at Wrightsville Beach and continuing to Southport NC on the Cape Fear River. I got a slip at Deep Point Marina which shared a basin with a major ferry service to neighboring Bald Head Island, a very touristy place. Think Mac Island or Jekyll Island with no cars on the island. Nice marina. I think there are 4 ferry boats running out of the basin with one docking or leaving every 20 minutes. So there was plenty to watch..
Left Deep Point Marina Saturday morning hoping to beat the rain to N Myrtle Beach. About 8 nm before MB I had an interesting experience. One of the pieces of advice frequently preached to boaters in an unfamiliar area is ‘to seek local knowledge’. I was approaching an inlet area called Lockwoods Folly, known for extensive shoaling. I had updated my chartplotter with a new, month or so old, US Army Corps of Engineers chart of their sounding of the area and it showed a large area of new shoaling on the starboard side (as you head south). I saw in front of me a commercial shrimp boat. “Why is it going so slow? What’s it doing?” I wondered. as I gingerly picked my way past, I saw that it was stopped and the deck hands were just wandering topside. They were grounded and either waiting for a tow (doubtful) or for incoming tide (a rising tide lifts all boats). So much for local knowledge. I wish I had gotten a pic but I was busy.
I had hoped to get reservations at Osprey Marina on the south side of MB but they were full with southbound boating snowbirds waiting out the storm. After a bit of a scramble, I reserved a slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club – actually just over the border in Little River SC. Interestingly to me, I had taken my motor home here in Dec ‘18 to look at a boat in this very marina. Anyway, the Yacht Club is located at the far end in Coquina Basin along with a couple other marinas and you pass by lots of docks and boats to get to the slip. Tied up just before 1 pm and the rain started 15 minutes later. No wind yet though. That’s supposed to blow in during the night hours. Plan on staying warm and dry tomorrow until the storm leaves, hopefully, late afternoon.
Early Sunday morning, 1:30 am, my iPhone started shrieking. Tornado warning! It was a strange warning – only for 1/2 hour and for 1/2 county. The half where I was. Not a lot of choices. Marina offices etc closed not that their bldgs looked like they’d withstand a tornado. So I got up and went up to the Pilothouse where I could sit and have a wide open view to the south and west. During that half hour only minimal rain and no thunder/lightening. When the warning expired, I headed back to bed. Later on Sunday I heard there was a touchdown in N Myrtle Bch damaging 4 homes. During the day saw nothing resembling gale force winds or winds, for that matter. Maybe 10 mph. It was a very grey, light rain and lots of drizzle day. So not nice and good day to be inside.
A nice run in nice weather today mostly within the banked confines of the ICW.
Most of the north south portion of the run was down Adams Creek where I finally ran into significant pockets of humanity.
At the southerly end of Adams Creek there was ample remaining evidence of Hurricane Matthew
At Beaufort/Morehead City, the ICW makes a sharp westerly turn and becomes a much wider body of water with its banks filled with development.
I headed to Spooners Creek Marina a few miles west of Morehead City. It’s a private condo marina that I also stopped at on the way north. The main reason I stopped there was the upcoming weather. The marina is off a small creek off the ICW and is quite protected. Tomorrow is supposed to be 100% chance of rain and windy. Possible gale force winds in fact. A good day to stay in a hidey hole. As long as I was here, I took advantage of their pumpout facility and also fueled up – 362 gal. I still had nearly 500 gal in the tank but the price and volume discount was OK and somehow it always feels good to have some tanks full and others empty. The trick at my age is to remember which is what.
Cabbed over to a nearby Wally World to reprovision. Another ‘tank’ full. Used the opportunity to buy myself a pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt. C’mon storm! And it complied. The rain started during the night and the first real gust that I’m aware of hit around 6 am (a slight bump against a face dock post. The boat is very quiet and very stable. About the only sound you hear is the light sound of water slapping the waterline which does transmit a bit below deck. Probably hear that in my stateroom once or twice a week as I go to sleep. When it’s there, the rythmatic light sound is very soothing. Anyway the following day was very wet outside and windy but far short of a gale. The life ring hanging on a hook at the fuel dock blew off and I took the opportunity during lulls to readjust the fenders and lines – three times ( as wind direction shifted and I was a side tie along a face dock). By late afternoon, the front moved offshore and the sun proved it was still present. A good evening to make spaghetti.
Today was planned to be a longer, for me, route. Actually, with good weather, waves and long runs of open waters, I accomplished the run in a bit more than 3 hours.
I’m back in shrimp and scallops country
I’m in a slip at Oriental Marina which shares the east side of the harbor with another shrimper fleet and processing/packing facility. The marina is small – 8 to 10 slips, with a motel, pool, restaurant and nice lawn.
The Coinjock Dock was nearly full last evening. A half mile + of boats lined up bow to bow and stern to stern and tightly packed along the face dock. I was bow to bow with a 54’ Hatteras which I was next to for 3 days in Hampton. Our bow pulpits were 2’ apart – a distance one could easily bride with one stride. I had the bow of a catamaran sail boat a couple feet off my stern. By the time I was ready to push off this morning there were only 2 other boats still at the dock.
It was again quite chilly today but mostly sunny. About a third to half of the distance was across the broad Albemarle Sound (Duck OBX to Nags Head OBX to the east) so I could run the boat at a higher speed. That definitely made the chilly air bite. Since the Sound is relatively shallow (mostly 12-15’) it is an expanse where you can expect to find crab pots most anywhere. Because of the better visibility, I ran from the exposed flybridge. Parka jacket temps/winds!
Once across the Sound, Alligator River Bridge loomed immediately ahead. Word had been widely broadcast that the bridge was fixed and again operating on a normal schedule. My plan was to spend the night at the marina immediately before the bridge. It’s a combination road side gas station and marina with decent fixed docks and good power. Not so good tasting water. The gas station also has a grill and a seating area with about 10 tables as well as outside picnic tables. It is also “home” to a number of crabbers.
Keeping it in the ditch!
Second leg of this section. Immediately after leaving the marina and into the channel, it’s time to wait for the swing bridge to open and for me to get a closeup of the bridge that caused an 8 day delay.
The long north south fetch of the Alligator River from the bridge was an easy run. Waves were about 1 inch😄. Alligator River is joined to the Pungo River, to the west, by a nearly straight as an arrow 25 mile long canal (ditch).
A long pretty run but devoid of humans. Saw three single docks along the major part of the ride. Presume somewhere out of sight there was a reason for the docks. There were 2 high fixed span bridges, one midway and one on the west end but those were devoid of traffic as well. Overtook two sailboats along the way, got passed by one fast boat leaving a huge wake and met 2 or 3 boats coming my way. And then I met ….
About 8 miles later I pulled into Dowry Creek Marina at Belhaven, NC. The docks were wiped out by Hurricane Florence in Sept 2018. Since then they’ve replaced all the docks, plumbing and power. A very nice marina, economical, a well marked entry channel with good depth. They have a nice boaters lounge and a pool and their marina store is quite well stocked. They also have a loaner car if you need to run 3 miles to town. All in all a good stop.
And I pulled some homemade pea soup out of the freezer for dinner. Mmmm. Good times.
Woke up to clear blue skies. Very uplifting though it was chilly and breezy – light jacket weather. Today’s goal was to get halfway to the Alligator River swing bridge hoping that when I actually get there the bridge will be a normal opening schedule, that is “open on request”.
About 8 miles south of the Atlantic Yacht Basin was the days only potential bottleneck, another spring bridge opening on the hour and half hour. My timing was not the best and I had to hold station in front of the bridge for 15 minutes til its 10am opening. NBD. The rest of trip was uneventful down the ICW without much of interest to catch ones eye. But I did need to keep my eyes open though as I was in crab pot territory and there were many miles of them. Very hard to see their little floats right at or near the marked channel edges especially with a rising sun in your eyes and floating in shimmering choppy waters. It doesn’t help when the floats are mostly either black or white. Hasn’t anyone thought of flourescent red, pink, yellow or lime green? Maybe some little flags attached? A 2-3” horizontal black float just isn’t very visible in certain conditions but having one of their lines wrapped around your propeller will just ruin your day. Thankfully the gauntlets were successfully run.
Winds today, 10/10/19, were forecasted to be a couple miles per hour less and they were laid down a lot first thing this morning and of course also once in the ICW. Grey and drizzly and chilly- very chilly day. I left my slip and proceeded 500’ south to the pump out station – had been nursing the holding tank for a few days. Then I finally left Hampton Public Pier. It’s a very nice marina and staff but the day after day delays were wearing a bit thin. As of my leaving, the Alligator River Bridge was still not operable (see prior post).
It’s nice having a group member waiting at the Alligator River Marina who can walk over to the bridge and get the latest skinny from the bridge tender and the engineers. Apparently Dorian knocked out the primary system for swinging the bridge and while a new primary was being built they were using a backup which is what then failed last week. A repair that was attempted yesterday failed. In addition the bolts that secure the bridge motor have come loose from the concrete so they’ve had to epoxy them back in and wait for it to dry. The report this evening is that a test opening around 5 pm this evening worked and they let a barge and some pleasure boats through. There will be two scheduled openings first thing in the morning. The brand new primary system will arrive tonight and tomorrow after the two openings they will start installing the new while still being able to open via the backup. So it looks like by the time I get there Saturday, bridge and marinas should resemble ‘normal’.
So back to today’s short trip. Though the wind was lighter this morning, the ride across the large harbor from Hampton to Norfolk and then to the protected ICW mouth was more rolly than expected, but easily handle able. Due to the very damp chilly weather, I decided to run the boat from the lower station. Up to this time, I probably have piloted from there for less than a half hour total. Apparently my Pilothouse chartplotter was not happy with me working at that station. Throughout the entire run out of the Hampton harbor and partway then to Norfolk, the charts were shown in an incorrect orientation and with the boat icon going sideways. Disconcerting! Had the AquaMaps app on the iPad keeping things together for me. Finally my chartplotter turned itself off and then 30 seconds later blinked back on and all was again well with it. For $5k, you’d think that plotter could work 100% of the time!
It was certainly different running from the lower station. A little more difficult seeing over the bow – I wouldn’t want to run through a whole lot of crab pots from down there. Visibility directly behind is also less because half of the interior of the boat is in the way. So I got used to putting the rear camera image up on the chartplotter from time to time to see what, if anything, was behind me. I also did a lock from there and two dockings (this evening’s docking plus a fuel – 460 gal – stop and I found that easier to judge the closeness of the boat rail to the dock. Oh, and it was really nice to have the heat on and no drizzle.
The ride through the immense Norfolk waterfront was again spectacular though once again not the best weather. So many warships! Unbelievable! And I saw two destroyers in drydock. These huge ships not in the water was an unreal sight to me. Maneuvering was too tight for me to comfortably take a pic🙁.
I was delayed in my departure from Hampton Public Pier. Boaters must be flexible and not bound to a schedule.
When I arrived in Hampton on Oct 1st, the plan was to stay 4 nites. This would give the opportunity to sleep in a couple of mornings, reprovision, order and pickup some prescription refills, get a needed injection and take advantage of B3GO pricing for slip rental. “Best laid plans of mice and men” comes to mind. Oh, those tasks got done and done timely but 4 nites turned into at least 9 nites.
The boat snowbird parade to FL has already started. It’s beginning to be busy. There are 3 routes south from Hampton (red circle) in southern VA/northern N.C.
One is to exit the Norfolk harbor into the Atlantic and run the outside route (blue line). Pros – possible faster speeds with zero slow, no wake zones; Cons – distance (no real intermediate port til Morehead City -over 200 nm. Ocracoke near the Oregon Inlet is closed to pleasure boat due to Dorian damage and Manteo also was impacted by Dorian), need really good weather/wave conditions.
A second would be to take the ICW south to the Currituck Sound and then into the Pamlico Sound near Duck, NC – northern Outer Banks (OBX) and down the Pamlico back to the ICW and down to Morehead City (green route). Pros at this time – really not many or any. Cons – few ports, Pamlico Sound is long and shallow and can be rough with current northerly wind component.
Third would be the ICW the whole way (yellow route) to Morehead City. Pros – protected waterway from winds and waves except for short portion across Abermarle Sound, many protected anchorages and marinas and restaurants, quite protected from winds and waves; Cons – slower speeds. There is an offshoot for part of this route transiting the Great Dismal Swamp. At this time of year, it has a great accumulation of Duckweed in the surface necessitating frequent strainer cleaning and there are frequent floating logs. It is also very narrow.
So my choice, and that of the majority of cruisers, would be the yellow ICW route. But on Thursday, the 3rd, a problem cropped up some 50 miles south. The Alligator River Bridge linking Manteo to Columbia shut down. https://obxtoday.com/top-stories/control-failures-mean-draw-bridge-over-alligator-river-cannot-open-for-boats/ The bridge is a swing bridge with a clearance (air draft) of only 14’. Last Resort has a minimum air draft of 19+ feet. Most cruising power boats will have an air draft exceeding 14’ and all but the smallest sailboats do as well. A part (electrical, I’m told) was damaged during Hurricane Dorian and has now failed shutting down the bridge completely. Whatever it is, the new part needs to be manufactured and the bridge is closed until the part is made and installed.
Weather has not been cooperating. It has been cold, rainy and windy. The winds have been, for days, running in the mid 20’s for days, gusting higher – all out of the north. Waves even in the bay between Hampton and Norfolk are 4-6’ which would be on my stern and make for a miserable ride. Boats are filling up slip space in the marinas between here and Alligator River. The Atlantic and the Pamlico Sound are not feasible and so here I wait. The word is, as I type (Weds the 9th) is that they are testing a temporary fix today and if it works the bridge may be operational on a limited schedule on Thursday🤞🤞🤞
Stopped here at Lighthouse Point Marina when heading north 6 + weeks ago and now am back. It’s on the north side of where the Chesapeake/Potomac meet and there’s not a lot to choose from unless one goes miles west up the Potomac or crosses the wide mouth of the Potomac and then head some 10-20 miles further south. It was already quite a bumpy ride to here so it was time to dock it.
The next leg was almost 46 nm southbound to Deltaville VA. The departure point, Point Lookout Marina in Ridge MD, was in a sheltered area on the north side of the Potomac and about 8 miles westerly of the junction with the Chesapeake. Winds from the NNE were predicted with waves <1’ southbound, once back in the Bay, I’d be running with whatever waves there were. By 20 nm the forecast changed and for my direction, not for the better. Winds picked up considerably and waves increased to generally 3’ and more. Worse the wind got a very significant easterly component and hit me abeam. Nothing the boat or crew couldn’t handle but it could have been more pleasant. Adding to the unpleasantness was the fact that there was about 3 mile visibility most of the way. So I headed into Deltaville and another well protected harbor.
The pre departure routine engine room check revealed water in the bilge. Where did that come from? The port engine sea strainer (same kind of strainer described and pictured in an earlier post for the air conditioner) was leaking at the cap. Close the thru hull and unscrew the cap. The rubber ‘O’ ring has hardened, flattened and has dozens of hairline racks nearly all the way thru the ring. Walked over to the marina parts department and couldn’t find the proper size amongst the several dozen types they had in trays. Borrowed the loaner car and visited 2 more marinas with the same “no luck”. NAPA auto parts – nada. Finally at the ACE Hardware store- bingo. One of the various ‘O’ rings used for the Culligan Water Systems was a match. 😎 One hour from discovering the issue to putting in the new rubber seal and I have a spare one now for the starboard engine. Ready to cast off.
The morning was overcast with 3 mile visibility but seas were almost dead calm as I headed southbound to Hampton/Norfolk area. There wasn’t much to see with the limited visibility except for a freighter here and there appearing out of the cloud a couple miles distant.
Also in an early blog post, I wrote some about an app for the iPad called AquaMaps. In fact, the first week or so of this journey was pretty much fully navigated via the app on an iPad until I updated the electronics in Ft Pierce. What I’ve written about before is the tracking feature – laying down “breadcrumb” tracks of where you or someone HAS been – which is helpful if you want to retrace the same route later. One feature of my new Garmin Chartplotter and of AquaMaps is prospectively to be able to set up waypoints in advance of the route you want the boat to follow. Auto pilot will then be able to execute the route (can always be overridden by the Captain). While that can be done on the boat’s chartplotter, you need to be at the helm for that. What is nice about Aqua Maps is that you can plot your route with step by step turns on your iPad from the comfort of the couch or bunk the night before.
While I even had the ability to do waypoints even on my prior fishing boat at my condo, I never took the time to learn how and I’ve near learned since. So finally I took the time to learn how to set advance routing waypoints and the system on Aqua Maps. I still have to learn how to export the route from the Apple iOS system to the MS based pc micro sd card for insertion into the Garmin card reader. One thing at a time. But meanwhile I can layout an advance route in the IPad and if the glare isn’t too bad on the bridge, I can follow the route. Once I figure out how to have the IPad talk to the Garmin, I can follow on the dedicated chart plotter and have auto pilot execute the course corrections. Don’t want to have to work too hard!😀
Today’s voyage was a respectable 44 nm with a trip time of 3.5 hours. I stayed at this marina 2 mo ago when heading north. It is a quiet downtown marina, well kept and managed. Onsite is a former Hyatt Hotel now part of the city owned waterfront complex. As such, marina tenants can also use the hotel amenities – like the pool. Across the street fronting the marina is old town Hampton with a number of streets of eclectic stores and numerous eateries. Also onsite is the Bull Island micro brewery and restaurant. Tried one of their sample ‘platters’ of brews which merely reinforced why I don’t like beer.
While here, I visited Yorktown and the Colonial National Historical Park where I got to use my old fart pass. Yorktown’s location along the York River at the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay gave it some prominence in two early America wars. Towards the end of the Revolutionary War, the British were suffering losses in the north and General Cornwallis was dispatched with an army to Yorktown to establish a naval base in the hopes of retaining the south. General Washington and the French combined with 17,000 men to take Yorktown back via a siege that lasted some 6 months.
Ninety years later, Yorktown made another appearance via a second siege during the Civil War when Union General George McClellan began his Peninsula Campaign there to capture Richmond. Convinced he was outnumbered (he wasn’t), McClellan sent two men up in observation balloons to survey the enemies position, the first ever aerial flights made over enemy lines. This siege lasted only two weeks and Yorktown served the next two years as Federal military headquarters for Eastern Virginia.
Driving back to the boat on I 64, I came through an area where the interstate was being widened. As I passed dozens of big bulldozers and earthmovers, I couldn’t help but wonder what the early Revolutionary army would think if they were transported in time from their hand made siege lines to modern times and methods as they joined the hundreds of autos traveling 70mph past today’s version of pick axes and shovels.
Today was a relatively short and easy travel day from Herrington Harbor to Solomons, MD. Weather was good, seas at 1 foot on the bow, distance short. Diesel price was good so I took on fuel before leaving Herrington. They offered a 20 cent per gallon discount over 300 gallons which I took advantage of.
Have left my “home” of the last month, Anchorage Marina In Baltimore, to start my slow trek south for the winter. I figure about 5-6 weeks to get to the FL/GA border and about 2 months to get to FtPierce, FL. It is there that I intend to ha Last Resort hauled at Cracker Boy boatyard. It’s a large DIY boatyard ringed with shops of independent contractors in the marine trades. Do what work yourself or hire it done. Last November I had a prospective boat hauled a surveyed there and spoke with a number of boat owners using the yard. I was favorably impressed. I plan to have the bottom repainted, some minor cosmetic fiberglass work done and the have the hull and topsides waxed. A couple of months ago, one of the hydraulic hoses connected to the trim tabs came loose and the small reservoir of fluid drained out. I had the diver back in Southport reattach it but, assuming some water entered the system, I haven’t refilled the reservoir. So I’ll get that fixed as well. Doing that will help the boat get on plane quicker (more efficient).
Got a reasonable start before 9 am this morning and had an uneventful trip to Herrington Harbor South Marina – some 40 nm south. 30 nm of the route to Annapolis Bay Bridge was merely a retracing of my route north 30 days ago. Much easier navigating using the ‘breadcrumbs’ route electronically left on the nav plotter from the prior route. No need to find the markers using binoculars etc. Just follow the prior track. Seas were running from the south at 2 ft or so (some whitecaps) with 2 sec intervals so it was a bit choppy but overall an easy ride. It was a chilly morning necessitating donning a light jacket for the first time this year. Herrington Harbor South is a large marina but somewhat isolated from town. It does have full utilities, nice, albeit fixed, docks and has a pool and a Bay beach. There is also a deli on site and a next door restaurant. It is also very full. A nice place to spend the night.
After a couple of weeks in the Annapolis area, I decided that Baltimore, the next stop, would be between 2 to 4 weeks. Much as I would have liked it, a run to New York City is just not worth the aggravation if there’s not time to continue beyond up the Hudson and NY canals. To run from Baltimore to NYC would entail heading to Philly, then across DE to Jersey. The NJ portion of the ICW is very skinny requiring runs with high tides. The alternative is to run the outside – the open ocean – with not that many easy harbors and cooperating winds and weather. And once there, the process would soon need to be reversed to head back south. So Baltimore seems like the place to end the northern travel —— this year.
The trip was 45 nm with a relatively brisk wind out of the northeast and eventually 2’-3’ seas off the starboard bow. And it was chilly!! In fact, for the first time, other than 5 minutes during a heavy rain in NC, I piloted from the enclosed lower helm for about a half hour or so. It provides a surprisingly different perspective – one I don’t prefer.
Soon after rounding the point at Kent Island and heading north, I overtook and passed a slow freighter. I decided to give in to my inner wuss and go below to pilot the boat. Maybe after 15 min or so, I hear Last Resort being hailed on channel 16. I responded and was informed it was a container ship a half mile astern who informed me that on our current courses and speed, he’d catch up and we’d go under the Bay Bridge together (per AIS). He requested that he be allowed to pass me on his port side. I was shocked as from the Pilothouse my rear view is blocked and so I didn’t have a clue he was near. Actually, I thought it was the long passed freighter and couldn’t imagine how it caught up.
The home for at least the next two weeks will be the Anchorage Marina. It has nearly 560 slips, all floating docks with full length floating finger piers on both sides of the boat. There are 8 long main docks off from a brick paved pedestrian promenade with, other than the 3 story marina offices, laundry and captain’s lounge, are bounded on the land side by condos. The main docks are all secured by card operated gates. The facilities are all first class. I am on Dock B. Dock C is the longest main dock and dead ends at a T Head – a long cross dock which provides the ‘breakwall’ to the rest of the marina and provides tie up on the outside to vessels too wide for berthing between the finger docks – like catamarans, 100’ + yachts etc. The area at the intersection of the CDock and the THead is interesting. Inasmuch as this is pretty much downtown like, land is a premium. So at the end of CDock they have boater facilities. A number of slips have been filled in with floating dock platforms which have a large grilling area, picnic tables, lots of seating, stereo and, drum roll, a swimming pool with patio. The swimming pool to a full 6’ depth and its patio and chaise lounge area all float on the water and rise and fall with the tide. It’s not big but it’s a pool and it’s pretty cool.
The marina is on a major street (Boston St) and there is no shortage of restaurants etc. I have not been a traveler in large cities for the most part but this area reminds me a lot of DuPont Circle, Washington DC, where daughter Vicki and her husband Jon first lived when they got married. Heavy concentration of downtown city type living with every imaginable commercial service and nightlife within easy walking distance. There is a large Safeway and an Ace Hardware right across Boston St from the marina. West Marine is 3 blocks away. More restaurants than you can count. Motorized scooters you can use via UBER and others at every corner. The 2 or longer mile long, wide brick promenade is always busy with joggers. And so far I haven’t seen any homeless nor what appear to be bums. Thought this was Baltimore?
I decided to extend my stay from 2 weeks to a month. The marina had a “BOGO” sale (excluding electricity) and that was too good to pass up. Their price per foot was the least expensive even before the 2 for 1. During the stay in Baltimore, daughter Vic and her husband came from DC to visit twice and I picked her up once for another visit. Also got to visit for a day at her house (the drive back and forth is very difficult for her). So between my stay on the Potomac and here in Baltimore, I got quite a few visits in. Good! Also making plans to visit, from wherever I am at the time, by driving up over Thanksgiving.
On evening my TV watching was interrupted by loud noises. Opened the sliding doors to the cockpit and was treated to a half hour +/- fireworks show from Ft McHenry (the site Frances Scott Key had in his vision when he wrote our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner). Not exactly sure what the event was but it was spectacular.
Broke out the grill on the flybridge for the first time and after replacing the burner and heat shield (thank you Amazon) got to initiate it. It will get more frequent use in the future.
Also used the extended time, in one location, for some internet shopping. One of the by products of my time with Owl Creek Boatworks (see the early blog entry from the Fort Myers area) and their nearly 6 weeks on the boat (one day fixing my grounding blunder and the rest of the time fixing their own ineptness) was their workmen traipsing in and out. The entry way ‘throw’ rug was ruined by their filthy shoes to the point where two cleaning attempts by Stanley Steemer failed. Within days of being cleaned the diesel and oil footprints would re-emerge. Looking back, it’s a good thing that this large area throw rug was there as it saved the carpeting.
Anyway, I used the time here to shop online for a replacement for the entry area rug and pilot house runner. Over the month I ended up buying three, one of which I gave away as I got too ambitious with color. The second was a bit “active” so I saved the runner part to use in the hallway between the staterooms. The third selection was the charm for use as the salon entry area rug and for the pilothouse runner.
Also on the agenda while here for the month was to start thinking of winter plans. I’ll be starting a slow return south leaving from Baltimore. My boat/hurricane insurance mandates staying north of the FL/GA line till November 1st. I also want to get the boat hauled and the bottom repainted on my way. After BoatUS grounded me in Southport and spent nearly an hour trying to drag me out, the diver I hired to pull my props also videotaped the bottom of the hull and there has been a lot of the new (Feb 2019) bottom paint badly scratched and/or rubbed away by that dragging. So I want that fixed. Since I won’t be able to stay on the boat while it’s hauled (“on the hard”) I’m thinking maybe I can get that done while gone for Thanksgiving – maybe even get the boat buffed and waxed! Have started making inquiries for mooring in the Keys and reading up on cruising the Bahamas though the northern Bahamas will need a couple, or more, years to recover from Dorian before being really accessible.
Left the Solomons and headed north 48 nm to Kent Island – across the Bay Bridge from Annapolis and 20 miles or so north of St Michaels, both areas which need to be explored. Had a one week reservation at Lippencott Marina also to accommodate a doctor’s appointment.
Also while here, one more attempt was made to fix the two air conditioner units that service the below deck staterooms. It’s hard to remember cool dry conditions below. Don’t think the 2 guest staterooms really ever worked consistently since I got the boat and certainly not since the Owl Creek (Ft Myers -early April to mid May) fiasco. To date, besides the so called AC guy at Owl Creek, I have had 7 Dometic authorized and trained techs on board. In fairness, some early complaints also focused on the Pilothouse AC unit and the HPF faults showing due to the mud grounding in Ft Myers. Nonetheless, the techs always, in the ensuing months focused on water flow, clearing lines, chemical flushing, water pump in/out flow etc. and with no results.
The thermostats in the staterooms were funky showing temps going down in 3-5 degree increments every 10-20 seconds until reaching 03 degrees and the climbing in the same way till reaching 80-90 degrees. Since the compressors are cooled by outside seawater, one never expects ice cold air when in hot summertime seas but cooling and most importantly dehumidifying is expected and the salon AC, working well, gave a good indication of what should be expected.
These ac units are like home ac systems which have the ac compressors outside with the air handler, general furnace, inside. My compressors/condensers are all below deck in the engine room while the air handler/blowers are in the living spaces. A week or so ago when the pilot house and salon ac’s were turned “off” but the stateroom ac’s were on, a visit to the engine room disclosed that though it sounded like the stateroom acs were on because the stateroom air handlers were blowing air, the engine room was actually silent and there wasn’t even any vibration from the two stateroom compressors. So the thermostats were sending and receiving signals but those signals were not getting to the compressors.
And so I called another AC guy who was instructed to focus solely on the 2 circuit boards. Sure enough, they weren’t working. One had apparently even been ‘repaired’ at some earlier time in its life by having the thermostat cable actually GLUED to the board. Bottom line neither board was functional and I had 2 new boards installed and a new cable end installed and I have had cold dry air continuously in the staterooms for 5 days now!!!!🥶
About a half hour after leaving the marina at Solomons, it was time to round the point and get back onto the Chesapeake.
There were several fun restaurants a couple of blocks from the marina.
A drive across the Bay Bridge into Annapolis
And to the east is St Michaels, a thoroughly quaint town and home to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The museum is an 18 acre waterfrontg campus dedicated to how the locals used to live, work and play on the Bay (before running tourist traps😀).
A short day covering 32 nm brought me to Solomons on Solomons Island. Arrived at a nice quiet marina across the basin from all the activity. Calvert Marina is a shoreline linear marina and must be a mile long. Much of it is old wooden fixed docks but they have 2 long floating concrete docks with new power and water and I’m on one of those for four days. There is a pool and on site restaurant at the far end – long walk- from me. Best of all it’s only $1.00 per foot per night. Upon arrival, I fueled up taking on 338 gal of diesel and got a pump out for the boat. Very good dockhands, deep water and a floating dock. They also have a loaner car (Mercedes Benz – old) for an hour at a time. What more can I ask.🤠
And now the boring part…
Also did some chores on the boat. Spent Friday morning doing some exterior cleaning from the salon roof line down to the waterline – on the starboard side. The dock is on the starboard hence that side is accessible from the dock. The transom got thoroughly washed and scrubbed with a 3m plastic pad and then with a magic eraser. When underway, diesel exhaust even though exiting underwater tends to ‘curl’ back up over the transom and it gets very dirty with exhaust smoke. Finally the swim platform itself turns a light beige from the over wash of tannic acid river water. I spray 6 sq ft sections at a time with “On and Off” (a mixture of muriatic and oxalic acit which doesn’t hurt the gelcoat), a light scrub to spread with a deck brush and then quickly hose it off. Turns it white as new!
In the engine room the thru hull fittings were exercised. Thru hull fitting are bronze fitting that allow the sea water to enter into the hoses in the boat to cool the engines, generator and the 4 air conditioner compressors. Those fittings have a valve (seacock) that is used to close off the thru hull.
If a hose were to break, you want to be able to close the thru hull quickly and easily before you sink.🙄. Salt water tends to corrode metal so it’s prudent to just open and close the seacocks periodically keeping them from seizing up. All were in good shape (I replaced all of them in April) but the starboard engine thru hull needed the exercise after only a few months. Will have to do this more often as it really takes no time.
Also needed to ass oil to both engines – about a gallon between them. This is also a relatively easy task given the cramped quarters of the engine room. The boat has an auto oil change system mounted on forward engine room wall.
It is an electric reversible motor pump with 5 hoses that run each to one of the two engines, the two transmissions and the generator. A sixth hose runs to either a full container of oil or to an empty one. Select a source and a destination and you can drain the old oil from an engine or trans to empty 5 gallon buckets; reverse the motor and you can add from a full oil container to an engine.
Last, the two sea strainers for the two engines and the one for the AC system were opened and the strainer baskets removed to the dock to be cleaned with a hose. The engine strainer baskets were pretty clean with just some shell pieces at the bottom of the basket. The AC strainer basket was in dire need of cleaning after just a weeks use since last cleaned. In addition to the scum and growth from bottom to top, there were a dozen or more jellyfish in the basket so the cleaning was certainly needed to help increase the flow of cooling water.
To complete the visual of the cooling systems, once the cooling water has done its thing by transferring engine or compressor heat to the water, the engine and generator water, now hot, exits with the exhaust underwater and the AC compressor water, now hot, exits via additional thru hulls at and above the water line. There are also other exiting thru hulls for shower sumps, sinks, and the washing machine.
Continued the southeasterly transit of the Potomac towards the Chesapeake Bay. Leaving Colonial Beach I entered the southerly 10+ miles of the Navy’s Dahlgren practice range. Contacted the range by radio and the range was not hot or active so I was able to do a straight shot through the range. Light breeze, calm seas and 32 nm later I arrived at Point Lookout Marina near Ridge MD – just a couple miles westerly of the intersection with the Chesapeake. Tied up for the remainder of the day. The marina was a decent marina, an easy tie though fixed docks. Fixed docks generally mean a bit more difficult for an old man like me to get off and on the boat. At high tide it is a long ways down over the cockpit rail to the dock in most cases requiring a step or short ladder on the dock and at low tide access from the swim platform to the dock requires adding a step onto thee swim platform. A fixed dock also means that your tie has to be able to compensate for tidal changes. Floating docks are, besides floating, lower to the water and pretty much allow me, no matter high, low or whatever tide, to just take the step down from the aft cockpit to the swim platform and then a short step up to the dock. Very EZ.
The marina’s on-site restaurant is closed weekdays and town was a good walk away so I broke out the spaghetti, sauce and ground beef for a delish dinner. Cooking aboard is much easier on the boat than it was in the motor home. As there wasn’t much/anything to do/see it was a quiet restful time and I enjoyed a beautiful evening and sunset.
This post is basically a filler – preventing a gap in the trip. After a wonderful family weekend, it was time to leave and head back towards the Chesapeake Bay. I delayed leaving Occoquan an hour or so to wait for UPS deliver 2 new correctly sized air conditioner raw water strainer baskets and once received I retraced my “steps” to Colonial Beach. It was a pleasant day and ride. The final 10 miles to Colonial Beach was extended to probably 15 due to the fact that the Dahlgren firing range was “hot” and Last Resort was redirected on the perimeter. So the total trip was about 50 statute miles.
Returned to the same Marina in Colonial Beach and even the same slip. The next day’s forecast was for thunderstorms, high winds and even, perhaps, tornadic conditions so I decided to stay two nights. In actuality there was no rain, no thunder and no wind on Tuesday though conditions were probably a bit bumpier south toward the confluence of the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay. I did package up the incorrect sized strainer baskets that I previously received and borrowed the marina golf cart to bring them to the post office for return. I detoured on my drive back to see more of the beach part of this town. Very nice.
Thursday made the 55 mile trip to Occoquan, VA. It was a nice travel day. Weds coming into Colonial Beach we ran some miles through the US Navy’s Dahlgren Firing Range. Colonial Beach is about midway thru the range on the Virginia side. So today as Last Resort headed further north up the Potomac it ran thru the remainder of the range. Unlike Weds, the range was NOT live today so we were able to run straight through it.
The run was past Quantico VA, home of the FBI labs and then a few miles north to the Occoquan marina for the weekend. This past Sunday was Granddaughter Juliana’s Profession of Faith. Their church is only 18 miles by car from the marina and Vic and Jon’s home another 18 miles.
Had lunch with Jon and Vic Friday at the marina restaurant and Juliana and her special friend Collin came early afternoon. We went out for a short boat ride, maybe a total of 15 miles or so and then headed out for supper. It was a nice time. Saturday Jon & Vic came out after lunch and we had a nice visit followed by dinner at Chuy’s, a Tex Mex restaurant – Great nachos! Following church on Sunday, we gathered at Vic & Jon’s for lunch (homemade Korean fare that was very different for me and very good) and also for a home made dinner. Thursday, when they came, they brought my Saturn that I used to tow behind the motor home so I had weekend wheels!!! I got to restock groceries Saturday morning. I had ordered new air conditioner strainer baskets online which were to be delivered Monday. They arrived by 9 am and within the hour I left. Great weekend!!
The trip up the Chesapeake from Hampton Beach described in the prior post was on flat calm waters. Not so much this trip. Waves were running 3-4’ from the south southwest. We were heading northwest from Tangier Island to the mouth of the Potomac River and continuing up the Potomac. That meant in the Chesapeake id be taking the waves directly on the port beam making for a pretty rolly ride. So I opted to do the first 12 miles directly towards the mainland so as to take the waves mostly on the bow. It was fairly wet on the bridge due to the spray. Near the lee of the mainland, the waves diminished considerably and the remainder of the ride to and up the Potomac was comfortable.
Somehow upon arrival at Colonial Beach I must have hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘stop’ on the NEBO tracking program so I lost the record of the trip. Below I’ve roughly sketched in the route for the day – about 50 nm.
The Potomac is a wide wide River and I encountered virtually no traffic.
Probably 5 miles or so before Colonial Beach we entered the “Dahlgren Range”. The range continues for another 5+ miles beyond Colonial Beach. Dahlgren Range is a US Navy ground firing range – where they fire live ammo into their target range. You can hear the guns boom for miles as they fire 6-8” shells. Contacting them by radio confirm that the range was “live” and we received course coordinates kind of zig zagging between the Maryland and Virginia shorelines. Also discovered that the Navy knows how to fish. Lots of areas of floating fish dead from the concussive force of exploding shells. When we arrived at Colonial Beach we radio’d “thanks” for not hitting us. It was obvious from their transmissions that they knew exactly where Last Resort was at all times. “Pfew!”
Colonial Beach is a nice waterfront community and the marina was quite nice. The marina owner and wife live on a Chris Craft that was tied up next to us. The area was under a TStorm warning and the thunder, lightening and rain arrived soon after the boat was settled in. Just the right time for an afternoon nap.
When it was dinner time, the owner provided a golf cart and directions to the restaurant right on the channel point. Weds night is prime rib special. Half the price of the Coinjock restaurant and 4 times better. Actually, it was fabulous.
finished dinner, drove the golf cart along the shoreline back to the marina and got to within 5’ of the boat before the rain started again. Great meal and great timing!
We left Hampton VA heading NNW up the Chesapeake Bay heading eventually to and up the Potomac River. Hope to find a port along the Potomac so as to visit with daughter Vicki and her husband Jon. By the time I arrive, grandson Charlie will already be back at the U of Oklahoma in Norman OK. My other grandson Tim and wife Allison have recently move to the Minneapolis area so I won’t see them either. Granddaughter Juliana won’t yet have left for Virginia Tech so hopefully I’ll see her as well.
It was, for me, a long trip (58 nm) but the day could not have been nicer and I made good time over very calm seas. The charting for the area appears complicated though it does get better as you zoom in. The lower portion of the Bay to the Atlantic is a busy shipping channel.
Tangier Island is described as a squiggle of mud and marsh in the middle of Chesapeake Bay which is about 30 miles wide at that point, and about a dozen miles from the nearest mainland port. One of its claims to fame is BLUE CRAB. It was settled in the late 1700s by farmers and transitioned to crab and oyster harvesting in the late 19th century. Due to its isolation, the residents speak a dialect of American English somewhat reminiscent of the British variety.
A third claim to fame is that the island is disappearing. Since 1850, its landmass has diminished 50% and the island continues to lose 9 acres per year. Its isolation is brought home by the fact there is no/zero cell service on the whole island and nowhere on my mile plus walk searching for crab cake dinner could I find wi fi. On the boat, I could get Directv. That got solved however when I rebooted the antenna hub and the antenna then locked on the satellite.🤠
There are really no roads on Tangier Island either. What passes for streets or roads are really a single lane. No problem as there are no cars either (there is an unlicensed Jeep and a 25 yo pickup as well as an ambulance. Travel is by foot, by moped, ATV or golf cart. Oh, and by boat, skiff and zodiac. Zoning laws do not seem to exist. Commercial, such as it is, is mixed with, in front of, next to and behind residential and hours of business are a mixed bag. The ballyhooed ‘ayce’ crab cake restaurant with seating at 5 pm, wasn’t opened. But there were others that were. And there were two places that serve ice cream in this community of 700.
Friday was a journey of only 24.7 nm. The route took Last Resort through the port of Norfolk and a collection of vessels that made it look like a ‘matchstick boat’. Also we passed mile mark “0.0”. The mile mark on the ICW starts with 0.0 at Norfolk ending 1,153 statute miles south near Plantation Key. We entered the Atlantic ICW in Stuart, FL at mile mark 987. The nautical charts are marked every 5 miles.
On the southern outskirts of Norfolk, we encountered our first closed railroad bridge. The tug boat “Fort Brag” was already waiting. After a 5 or so minute wait a train came through. There was a second train that was soon to come and it was an interesting conversation to listen to as the bridge tender discussed opening between trains with her supervisor. The bridge did open and we scooted through. I’m sure the opening was primarily because of the commercial tug.
It was a rainy and overcast day and the River was busy so I followed the tug for 5+ miles – at a much faster speed than I expected.
Norfolk is an amazing port in general with the waterfront littered with immense tall cranes used in ship building and repair as well as those used to load container ships. The navy shipyard runs for miles and we passed dozens and dozens of naval vessels of every sort being repaired and refitted. No unemployment here! Below are some pictures of your tax dollars at work.
Across the bay from Norfolk is Hampton VA, my destination. As I approached the Hampton side, I throttled back only to find that the port engine would not. Whether I pushed the throttle forward or pulled back, it continued at 2,000 rpms (that’s high for the boat). That made the port engine useless – too fast for harbor/marina speed and once put in neutral, too many rpms to re-engage the transmission. So I shut down the port engine. While that was going on, I went too far to the east by a half mile and so ended up going OVER Interstate 64. If you’ve not been to Norfolk, I64 crosses the bay via bridge and tunnel. The tunnel portion exists so that the extremely tall Naval vessels can enter the bay over the tunnel. Bridges would just have to be built too high to enable an aircraft carrier to transit. So that was a first for me – piloting a boat over an interstate.
Reversing my course to the correct marina, I had another first and that was docking stern into a slip with only one engine. Thankfully, there wasn’t much time to think about it and there wasn’t much current. At 45,000 pounds and high torque props, once you line up it’s pretty bulletproof.
The dockmaster gave me the name and number of “an old school” mechanic. When I called him, he was too busy to come out but he seemed to know what the problem was and said I could fix it. Using his suggestions, the problem was found. The throttle cables from both helms are routed to the engine room where they enter a metal box that is bolted to the engine. Inside the box they are connected to a single throttle cable to the engine itself. There was a loose bolt on the engine room floor and the box itself was no longer attached to the engine. So movement of the throttle at the helm merely moved a loose box rather than transferring to the engine itself.
The box is actually attached with two bolts, lock washers and nuts to the engine bracket and both brackets on the box and engine are threaded as well. With the one bolt at a local hardware store, we located two new bolts with correct threads, nuts and washers and put it back together. It works! How two bolts lost the nuts and then unscrewed themselves from the brackets is somewhat of a mystery. Guessing that the old school mechanic that diagnosed the reason for the diesel fuel leak might have something to do with it. The spin on fuel filter that was leaking was hard to access and am guessing he disassembled the throttle assembly to more easily fix the filter issue and then neglected to put it back together properly.😡
The plan was to spend 4 nights at the marina. Decided to take a tourist trip to Fort Monroe. I had never heard of it before. It was built from 1819-1834 and has a rich history. Robert E Lee was stationed there. Confederate Pres Jefferson Davis was imprisoned there (in fact an old entry arch with his name was removed just the prior day as part of the current politically correct attempt to rewrite inconvenient history https://www.kvia.com/news/us-world/jefferson-davis-name-removed-from-arch-at-va-fort/1103401525 . Pres Abraham Lincoln spent time there planning the prosecution of the war and the Fort in its time was the equivalent of a modern day “sanctuary city” informally renamed “Freedom’s Fortress” providing safety to slaves. Edgar Allen Poe was stationed there and wrote some of his early works there. The battle between the Merrimack and the Monitor happened within sight of the Fort. During budget cuts of a few yrs ago, it was turned over by the Dept of Defense to the Dept of Interior and the Commonwealth of VA. It is now a Natl Monument and very much worth the visit.
Also on the agenda was a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. It’s probably 30-35 yrs since I was last there. I had forgotten the long walk – probably able to complete half of it. Streets of period restored buildings of the first Capital city of the Virginia colony. The buildings are populated with folks dressed in period clothing who, in full figure of speech, tell the story of the people, place and time.
And finally there was a visit to the Virginia NASA Air and Space Museum where, in addition to seeing all the exhibits, I had the chance to sit and watch the Apollo 11 documentary of the manned trip to the moon on the IMAX screen.
The trip from Coinjock to Chesapeake was about 32 nm approx 25% of which was across the open waters of the Currituck Sound – another area liberally sprinkled with crab pots. The rest of the day was spent in narrower river (North River) and canal waters.
The past 3 nights we had been joined in marina with a 42’ Grand Banks trawler and so had made acquaintances. Trawler generally travel. More slowly than the Last Resort. I heard them leave Coinjock about 1.5 hours earlier than did the Last Resort. A few miles before Chesapeake VA we caught up with them and he hailed me on the radio. He said his batteries were depleted. I wondered what was going on since his boat and boat name didn’t show up on my chart plotter. Commercial boats are required to have AIS (Automatic identification System) receive and transmit technology. It is like radio/GPS radar without the radar. The transmitter is registered with the US Coast Guard and the FCC with all the pertinent vessel info. It continuously transmits its location, vessel name etc and any boat with AIS receiving capability can “see” the transmitting vessel. This “sight” allows you to even see a vessel out of sight, around a curve etc. without radar. Seeing the AIS vessel on your chart plotter as a 🔼 means the vessel is going the same direction as yourself and as a 🔽 indicates it is coming towards you etc. When the transmitting vessel is at distance, its triangle icon will be green but when closer, say 1/2 mile, the computer changes the triangle color to red and calculates by minutes and seconds, updated each second, the time to intersection, if any. If the two courses will actually intersect/collide, that forecasted point of collision is displayed on the chart with a red shipwreck symbol together with how much time will elapse at current speeds before said disaster. It’s really fascinating technology and I’m glad I installed it.
Many pleasure boats now have the receive capacity built into newer systems but few have both the transmit and receive capacity. Both the Last Resort and his Grand Banks are equipped with both transmit and receive AIS and when I identified his boat with the binoculars but didn’t see him on the chart, I was puzzled until I realized he had all his power consuming electronics shut off. The marina in Chesapeake was full service so I radio’d back that I’d lead him in and radio for him. (The diesel engines themselves, once started, don’t consume battery power).
So I did a slow pass and took the lead. Prior to the marina in Chesapeake, we came to the Centreville Turnpike Bridge which neither of us could clear. The bridge, a draw bridge, only opened on the hour and there was no way we’d get there on time. It didn’t appear as though there were any boats waiting for an opening so I hailed the bridge tender on the radio, explained we were leading a partially disabled boat and would she hold off opening the bridge for 10 minutes till we arrived and so wouldn’t have to wait nearly another hour for an opening. She agreed and we passed thru without missing a beat.
I hailed the Atlantic Yacht Basin boat yard (full service with mechanics) and told them the situation, made sure they had slips for both of us and waved the Grand Banks into a space on the face dock. Once in, the Last Resort docked right astern.
I’ve heard some of you say you liked some of the prior foodie pics. There won’t be any in this post. Ordered Chinese delivered. Ugh. Not worth using any electronic pixels for it.
Chesapeake is just south of Norfolk and the plan is to hang around that area for the weekend.
Left Belhaven on a beautiful morning. Flat calm. 49.7 nm (57 statute miles) covered in a little more than 4.5 hours.
The trip was uneventful and traversed pretty boring territory, much of it through the Pungo River – Alligator River canal known as the ditch. I think it was about 20 miles of straight dredged canal. Set the auto pilot heading and never adjust it. Not even crab pots to dodge. There was a 8” diameter floating tree trunk at the entry however. Always pays to watch the water!
There was one interesting sight in the ditch though – something I’d never seen before. Unfortunately by the time I was close enough to see what it was and then get my camera, I was considerably past
The destination for the evening was the Alligator River Marina. It is located about 25 miles due west of Manteo, the north entry to the Outer Banks National Seashore. The marina is between the highway to Manteo and the riverbank and is basically a highway gas station with boat docks – nice solid boat docks, good depth and good power. Water is not what you want to put in your tanks though. The station has a deep fryer and grill and a back room facing the water with 10 or so dining tables. So from the delightful haute cuisine of Belhaven’s Spoon River to Alligator River Marina and gas station’s Philly Cheesesteak. BUT they also had ice cream 🍦 cones which were worth the short walk in the evening.
On to Coinjock
About a half hour after waking up, the entire marina and station lost power and with it my air conditioning. Wasn’t expected to be restored till noon. Hastily checking the oil levels, water strainers, belts and hoses in the engine room (an every travel morning chore), activating the electric cable master to retrieve 50’ of 50amp power cord and taking in the lines, the Last Resort was off and away. First was a crossing of the Albemarle Sound, a large body of water. Once again I was blessed with nearly flat calm conditions and though the preferred channel is not all that wide and the area is very well populated with crab pots (hard to see and you don’t want your prop to tangle with the rope that leads from the tiny buoy to the pot below) progress was quick.
There were two possible routes for the day about equally preferred by Loopers on the Internet forums. One was through the Great Dismal Swamp via the Dismal Swamp Canal. It is reportedly a very beautiful segment of the trip, narrow with trees almost interfering with the masts on sailboats and with a reportedly great visitors center complete with overnight docking. The other route is dominated by Prime Rib. At a small town of Coinjock NC is a marina with a restaurant featuring prime rib – 2 cuts – 16 oz or 32 oz. It is touted by Loopers as a must stop. Something dismal and swampy vs tender prime rib? The choice was clear.
The Coinjock Marina was busy and the southern end was anchored by a 165’ jet powered yacht. I’m happy to NOT be piloting that in some of these narrow waters. It was recommended that if you wanted the prime rib you put in your order in early afternoon. We did. And at the appointed hour ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️👇👇👇👇👇👇⤵️⤵️⤵️⤵️⤵️⤵️
A complete and total, abject disappointment. Cmon folks, you should be able to cut prime rib with a butter knife. The heavy duty steak knife couldn’t cut it – literally couldn’t even hack it. Melt in your mouth? Not chewable!😡🤬.
Did spend some time at the marina cleaning the literally 1000s of dead gnat type bugs off the stern of the boat. When the bugs wash off, they leave little black spots/crap hardened to the fiberglass and windows. I also cleaned the cockpit teak and acid washed the swim platform back to pristine white. It turns brown from all the tannic acid in the rivers.
It will definitely be the Great Dismal Swamp later this fall when heading back south. Yes. Completing the Loop will not happen for me in 2019. Planning on some time in the Chesapeake Bay Area and then to New York and maybe some further? Not going to rush it. Looking forward to being in the Norfolk general area for the weekend for some R&R.
Leaving the Beaufort City Dock I got another broadside look at the massive sailboat. What a beauty!
I’ve panned out this shot a bit to provide a little better orientation of this segment to better known areas. This segment of 25.5 nm is basically due north up Adams Creek to the Neuse River and Oriental NC. It was a fairly typical ICW run, reasonably narrow channel and isolated area.
Oriental NC, at least from the perspective of a boater, is a real shrimper community. I’ve not seen such a large congregation of shrimp boats, both at work at in the harbors. I found our marina intriguing. Immediately across the fairway (entry) was 2 blocks of shrimp processing buildings. Immediately across from our slip the shrimpers were moored as you would think of parallel parking. Further down the mooring configuration was more like angled downtown street parking. At the entry break wall to the town, but on the pleasure boat side was another area for shrimpers. There were probably only a half dozen in that area but the hulls were all painted with the same color – red.
The marina was very nice. It had a pool which was appreciated in the 90 degree plus heat. They touted showers with towels, soap and shampoo furnished. Guess it pays to have an associated guest hotel. At the pool deck they had a tiki bar and on the spacious lawn they had 3 large tents (they had had some sort of event) so there was ample shade over the comfy Adirondack chairs. The best??? About 500’ away was an ice cream shop!
I docked ‘bow in’ because I wanted a port tie (the dock on the port side) because the air conditioning discharge port on the boat is on the port side at the waterline. Unless it’s a face dock, I always dock ‘stern in’. I had inadvertently introduced a severe air lock in the system when last cleaning the sea strainer so the 4 ac units (water cooled) were not cooling. I hadn’t over the prior few days been able to clear the air lock below deck so I planned to lay on the dock and with the shop vac hose stuck in the outboard discharge, try to pull the air lock through and out. Didn’t work. The finger pier was too short to allow me to reach the discharge. Upside though, the depth at the shore side of the dock was minimal and I watched my ‘stern in’ neighbor digging mud with his props when he left in the morning. With my props 50’ off the land, I had deep water at my stern and kept my props pristine, I hope. Had really nice neighbors on both sides and the boat that we were ‘stern to’ (the Mary Beth) in Beaufort arrived about an hour after the Last Resort and slipped 3 down from us.
In the Neuse, as we were leaving, we passed a shrimp boat coming back to port after a night of fishing.
It was an absolute superb travel day. Dead calm, reasonable morning temps and a nice breeze on the bridge. Lots of open water areas with ample depth and Last Resort was allowed her legs. The temps did rise and by the time the boat was tied up in Belhaven, it was very warm! And no pool!
This time I had port tie on a face dock and so I tried to suction the ac discharge again. I did manage to pull some air bubbles but not enough. The pump was still cavitating. We were the only boat in the basin and the dockmaster wandered over to see what was happening. I explained the issue. He worked in the ship engine room in the Navy and he felt challenged. He went down in the engine room and found a relief plug on the pump and relieved most of the air (thank you (NOT) Capt Bob’s Marine Mobile AC, Owl Creek Boat Works, Thunderbolt Marina and Zimmerman’s Marina for not being able to solve the same riddle before). Some remaining air after the pump still remains but am confident the system will sort that out by itself.
The dockmaster also told us of a restaurant to try. We had actually read about it from other Loopers. Belhaven is a small town of 1600 and by road pretty much nowhere. Some yrs ago a retired exec moved there and fulfilled his dream – a farm to fork restaurant with quite an East Coast reputation – named Spoon River Artworks and a Market. It was the dining tray of the trip and then some
With newly refurbished props and being in a slip where the boat at low+ tide had rage props digging into the bottom (significantly), I was nervous about grounding when leaving my Cedar Point slip. And so I waited till 2pm, an hour before absolute high tide, before leaving. In the week plus at the Cedar Point Marina, I watched two other larger boats come and go. One grounded about 6’ off the dock, got off only to ground again at the end of the dock. The other came in to pick up a passenger and did a temporary tie right in front of me. I chatted with the captain and he was familiar with the marina. His boat drafted about 8” less so at low tide even he would touch bottom. He described the route out of the marina back to the channel and I paid careful attention watching him leave. A couple days later, when it was my turn, I carefully followed his bread crumbs and didn’t even scratch my shiny props getting out.
With a late start, it was going to be a short travel day. Morehead City, maybe 20 nm away, had a number of marinas but none that listed pump out (toilet waste disposal) facilities so we opted for an even closer marina on Spooners Creek -across the bay from Emerald Isle. There was only one review and only $1.75 per foot so we weren’t sure what we were getting. But they confirmed a working pump out so Spooners Creek Marina it was. What a surprise. A nearly new marina in connection with a nice condo complex – mostly privately owned slips. They even had diesel. Floating docks, good power and water. The pool was only for slip and condo owners and not transients though. There was a mall a mile away and we even walked over for dinner.
We left the next morning for another short run around Morehead City to Beaufort NC. Very shoaly 3’ depth just a foot outside of the marked ICW channel right at the creek. We wiggled free. We arrived and docked at Beaufort City Docks for two nights. What a charming town!
The docks run about 4 city blocks along downtown Main Street. Downtown shops on one side of the street with the dock on the other. A mecca for people strolling the streets shopping and boat watching. The docks are located on Taylor Creek which is a very busy busy waterway with tour boats running to the barrier island every hour, dozens of boats anchored across the creek’s channel and all manner of pleasure boats – even a small stern wheel, pedal, floating bar, boat. At the end of our dock is the Dock House Restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining on two levels. They feature a breakfast buffet each morning and live outdoor music on weekend evenings. Don’t even have to get off the boat to enjoy the music. Walked a couple of blocks to the Saturday Farmers Market. Not that impressed though the walk past 200+ yr old houses was worth it.
Another nice marina feature is ‘diesel at your slip’. No need to tie up at the fuel dock and then leave to tie up at your slip. The price was competitive so I took on 400 gallons. The neighbors have been very friendly. At the next dock is a 107’ sail boat- guessing maybe a 20’ beam. It’s huge.
And to answer Rick R’s quiz for me – it was Beaufort NC, rather than Beaufort SC, which nearly had a German Uboat visitor in WWII. Thank you Rick for posting your comment.
A milestone has been passed. Have now traveled over 1,000 statute miles.
Left Southport heading northerly on the ICW heading to Topsail Beach. Didn’t make it. About 3 miles north of Wrightsville Beach, black clouds started to rapidly develop in the west and rapidly blooming easterly. I started to see lightening in the distance and the decision was made to backtrack to Wrightsville Beach. Though I hurried, I arrived back at the drawbridge about 1:05 pm and the bridge, as the bridge tender reminded, only opens on the hour so I settled in to hold the boat in place till 2pm. The monsoon arrived and the bridge tender took pity and radio’d that he’d raise the bridge. I was grateful but thoroughly soaked. Past the bridge at last, I tied up on the face dock of the marina immediately south of the bridge. Decent spot but not as nice as many previous stops. But the area marinas were pretty full so choice was limited.
So the day was limited to 32.5 nautical miles, the last 1/2 mile and 1/2 hour of which was in drenching rain. After the rain ended, we treated ourselves to dinner at the associated restaurant.
Across the river from our marina, on the face dock of a different marina, were two monster yachts. The largest was 154’ with 4 decks. I found it on the internet and it’s for sale for $11 million. The stern opened up over the transom as they wheeled their motorbikes aboard to take their place next to the jet skis and dinghy. That night it was all lit up as formally dressed guests partied.
The other yacht at its bow was approximately 120’ in length and it had two slide outs (like an RV) on the port side (couldn’t see the stbd side). One was at the waterline and was open. It extended out about 6’ and a dinghy was “parked” in it. The other was one level up, closer to the bow and remained closed so have no idea of its function.
Left Wrightsville Beach in the morning and headed north thinking maybe we’d make it to Beaufort NC. We soon passed a peninsula jutting into the ICW reached by a small isolated road and on the Point was built a very large PINK home. Reminded me of a place called the Pink Store where I ate at a year ago in Puerto Palomas in Mexico, south of Columbus NM.
As we would be passing Camp LeJeune we called to see if the ICW would be restricted due to USArmy firing exercises. The exercises were scheduled for that night so we were cleared to pass during the day. Near Camp LeJeune is the Onslow Beach swing bridge which, unlike the old girder swing bridges encountered before, is a modern new(ish) highway bridge built for all weight of traffic. It was impressive watching, from flybridge height, the bridge open.
A couple miles north of Camp LeJeune there was a significant reduction in rpms on the starboard engine. Scenarios that occurred to us included perhaps a stray line caught in the starboard prop. Shut down the stbd engine. An engine room inspection also showed red fluid from an unknown source in the bilge so we turned off the auto pumps so as to not pump it overboard. Shutdown the port engine and called BoatUS for a tow. We were towed to a marina in Cedar Point NC, between Swansboro and Morehead City/Emerald Isle (extreme south end of the traditional Outer Banks) ending the travel day at 43.5 nm.
The current at Cedar Point is very strong running 5-6 knots and the tow boat had difficulty changing over quickly enough from a stern tow to a side tow to bring us into the slip at Dudley Marina. As a result, the tide took both the Last Resort and the tow boat into the shoals and we grounded. It took the tow boat another 45 minutes to wiggle the Last Resort free. Arriving at the marina we found that there wasn’t sufficient depth (despite the marina saying there was when called on the radio) except at very high tide – twice per day. Nonetheless we were dropped at Dudley Marina’s outside face dock.
At the dock, no longer on the move and no longer up on the flybridge, the smell from the engine room was intense. Suspecting a transmission problem like a disconnected line somewhere, I called to get a diver and a mechanic to see if the problem was in the engine room or under the boat (reduced rpms). Meanwhile our eyes teared and our throats were sore from the fumes. The next morning an old time mechanic came and after some time and testing by starting the engine etc. the problem was found.
Each engine has two fuel filters of diminishing fineness to purify the diesel fuel before it reaches the engine from the fuel tank. There is a large filter (called a Racor) between the fuel tank and each engine and then a smaller, finer particle, spin on filter, about the size of a auto oil filter, on each engine. The port engine spin on filter had a 2”+ vertical split in it and was spewing diesel fuel, lots of it. The reduced fuel pressure caused the port engine to produce fewer rpms/power. Best guess is that the Cummins tech in Savannah used a wrench, rather than hand tighten, and crimping the metal shell caused the failure.
A new filter was purchased, spun on and the problem was solved. But the bilge in the boat still had all that diesel sloshing around and out gassing. So we borrowed the loaner car and went a bought a hand bilge pump and a couple of 5 gal buckets. Since the buckets needed to be moved along the length of the engine room and then lifted up and out of the lazarette and from there up and over the side of the boat to the dock and then carted to shore and up up a set of steps to the giant marina waste vat, we only filled the buckets half full. We pumped out and disposed of 40 gallons of diesel fuel. Then came a couple hours sopping up more with special diesel absorbing towels and disposing of those. That was followed by mixing up about 12 gallons of water with a gallon of Dawn dish soap (it chemically breaks down diesel rendering it safer and prevents it from floating with a sheen on the water. Topped all that off with a gallon layer of pine scented bilge cleaner to rid the boat of its truck stop smell. The Dawn and piney solution was left in the bilge for a couple of days to slosh around cleaning the area even more thoroughly and then that was hand pumped out and disposed of. Following that another sopping up by special absorbent towing. Dirty stinky job but clean engine room, no smell and far cheaper than some other possibilities.
The diver also came. He spent about 45 min under the boat and provided a 15 minute underwater video. There was a long line (not from a crab pot) around the starboard shaft and props which certainly would negatively impact the starboard engine effectiveness. The starboard prop also has a lot of nicks on the blade edges. The port prop was a different story. It took the bulk of the beating from the limestone at the Myakka lock on Lake Okeechobee (see blog post “Lake Okeechobee to Ft Pierce” some 600 miles ago). Though I really did not feel vibration etc while piloting on the bridge, the dings, broken out pieces and bends to the blades, certainly caused imbalances and strain. So I had the diver remove both props to be taken to a computerized prop shop to be fixed. The work could only be done at high tide due to shallow water at the slip so removal etc took two days. It was interesting to see all the tools used under water for removal – sledge hammers, large pipe wrenches, hydraulic press, and a prop removal tool which is attached to the prop and to the strut and using the hammers applies opposing force to remove the prop off the shaft. Once off, the prop is attached to a float bag which is then inflated from the scuba tanks to help lift the prop to the surface. Each prop, made of a nickel and bronze alloy (Nibral) is slightly larger than 30” in diameter and each weigh over 150 pounds. I’ve seen them twice before attached to the boat when the boat was hauled but, in place and in context, they don’t appear nearly as huge as laying on the dock.
Once removed, the diver took them to a prop shop in Morehead City to be repaired. We borrowed the loaner car a couple of days later to visit the prop shop. It was quite interesting. The specs of the boat make, model, from the mfr are entered into the computer as are the same for the engines. Boat mfr specs for wide open throttle rpms etc are also entered as are the prop types – # of blades and size – and the computer calculates the ideal prop – size, complex curvatures etc. Then the computer calculates by computerized measurement exactly the curves (pitch) etc of the current props on the table. The props are manually with a press and primarily hammers (no heat) re-fashioned to match the ideal computer model and in the port prop’s case new material welded in in the one blade. Actually the starboard prop was more out of spec in terms of pitch than the more severely injured port prop. Both props are set up to be identical (though reversed) and balanced. There are three variations of “perfection” with the least perfect match to the computer being for a work boat ant the best for a high performance boat. These are tuned to the mid range. Each prop takes a full day with extra time needed for welding.
Our waiting time was used for provisioning as well as for bilge cleaning described above. One afternoon a very interesting Navy, I presume, boat went by. It looked very little like a boat. About 100’ in length, of stealth design and powered, I’m told, by four 1650 hp diesels. Bet it can fly.
Other interesting sights was the approach of the cold front Tuesday evening accompanied by brief (2 minutes) of violent sideways rain. A calm and most pleasant Weds midnight provided a distant shot of a shrimper heading back into port.
So finally get the call the props are ready and the diver picks them up and in a couple of hours, at high tide, he gets them reinstalled and then cleans the boat bottom. Since next high tide comes at 2 am, departure will have to wait till mid afternoon the following day (per the underwater videos from the diver, the props are buried to the hub in the hard bottom at low tide with the keel resting on the bottom) so the first travel day will be short – to a marina with sufficient depth. Last Resort nominally has a 4’3” draft and as loaded with gear, fuel and water it probably draws closer to 5’.
Have crossed into the 4th state for this trip. Left Myrtle Beach in threatening rain but the weather looked more promising a little north. That and the fact that the actual thunderstorms seemed to be forming off shore. Probably had moderate rain for about 5 miles of the trip and under the hardtop it stayed dry. The last 1/3rd or more of the trip was full sun. Also experienced another swing bridge which I find interesting.
The total trip was just short of 44 nm and lasted 5 hours. I saw two familiar sights on the way. Last December I made a fast run with the motor home to Little River, SC to inspect a 45’ Silverton yacht that was for sale and I stayed in a relatively new RV park that was part of a marina on the ICW. So it was interesting to me to see the park, my waterfront RV site as well as the waterfront seafood restaurants I checked out then now from the water. As I approached the end of the trip, I cruised by Oak Island NC. In 2017 I camped at an Elks campground on Oak Island – a very unglamorous campsite nearby the ICW but with a great ocean view. Oak Island, it turns out, is quite a summertime resorty area and only a few miles from the Cape Fear Inlet. I didn’t realize that back then. Different time, different perspectives.
I am remembering that I was asked to put more fluff into these posts. Cruising thru the marshes and tidal flats doesn’t provide much fluff. So I’ll try something else.