Saturday, May 28, 2016

Crossing The Goal Line

If you have been following along on our little journey, you know that we are moving north. You know the reason we are moving north now is due to an imaginary line drawn in the sand by our insurance company that says the boat won't be covered for damage by named storms unless we are north of Cape Hatteras.

While our insurance policy is significantly cheaper by having this restriction, it isn't the only reason we went with this policy.  Our original intention was to spend some time in the Chesapeake and further north anyway, so it did, and still does, align with our goals. While we do appreciate all the concern and suggestions regarding insurance, don't fret, the insurance restriction does align with our overall goals.

When we last left you, we had arrived in Southport, NC. We decided to stay at the one other marina in town that we had yet to visit.  South Harbor Village Marina sits along the Intracoastal Waterway just south of the town of Southport and I believe is actually part of the town of Oak Island. Overall the people and the facility was nice.  They have two restaurants on-site and that is convenient but my wife and I are not fans of the Dead End Saloon when we visited on a couple of prior occasions.  We didn't get a chance to try the Italian restaurant but it is reported to be good.  Given the marina isn't all that convenient to Southport, I think we still prefer the free laundry, pool, and slightly cheaper rates at Deep Point Marina.

Shortly after arriving in Southport, we met up with some new friends we had made back in Isle Of Palms marina. They were staying at the Southport marina near downtown.  We had a nice dinner at Provisions (a must stop in Southport) and then went with them to the weather briefing that is put on by Hank at Carolina Yacht Care (CYC - the same gentleman that runs the boaters shuttle service). If you are ever in the area, it is worthwhile to sit in on one of Hank's briefings. It was there we found out that a low pressure system in the Bahamas might become the first tropical storm of the season and was likely to bring about some lingering bad weather in a few days.  This accelerated our schedule to move north and we quickly made plans to get us north of the insurance goal line before the storms arrived and pinned us in place past our deadline.

Tropical Depression 2 - National Weather Service prediction,

Until the predicted storms arrival the weather was expected to be nice for an outside run up the coast. This could put us north of Cape Hatteras (35° 13' North latitude) in about a day and a half of travel. We found one of the marinas we have stayed at, Dowry Creek (35° 32'), is about 20 miles north of the line (no matter how the insurance company may try to draw it) and within the two day and one night travel window.

We departed the marina and made our way up the Cape Fear river.  With the incoming tide, we were going up river at over 8 knots.  High tide was right when we were making our way through Snow's cut and we again had favorable current for the trip to the Masonboro inlet.  From there, we jumped out, set sails, shut down motors, and had a nice overnight sail across Onslow Bay. Before we left cell phone range, I called the range master at Camp Lejeune and confirmed that their offshore firing range danger area was not active and we could cut through it without becoming a target of unwanted attention...or unwanted ammunition.

Camp Lejeune Firing Range area.
The seas were just as predicted at 1 to 2 feet on a relatively long 6 to 8 second period. The predicted 10 to 15 knots of wind were actually closer to 25 and this combination made for a nice brisk sail.  In fact, at one point it looked like we were going to arrive at the Beaufort inlet around 1 AM.  While I wanted to arrive at first light, this was a bit too early. I resisted the urge to slow the boat down for a while but I really didn't feel like heaving-to and waiting for first light just outside the inlet.

I finally gave in and further reduced our speed.  That, of course, was a mistake. Not too much later the winds started to die down and by first light we were about 4 nautical miles from the inlet going about 1.5 knots. Someday I'll learn you have to take what you can get when you get it.  We fired up the engines as the wind completely died and made our way in.

Going in the inlet was crazy.  No big cargo or cruise ships to contend with, but the onslaught of fishing boats headed out for the morning was incredible.  If I didn't know better I would have thought that someone was giving away free kegs of beer to the first 1000 boats to arrive at the fishing grounds. Fishing boats of all sizes were pouring out of he inlet as we were fighting our way in.  Unfortunately this isn't a no-wake zone and every one of them was going full throttle to be the first one out.  It was the roughest seas we have faced on the entire trip north, and it was all caused by the wakes of the high powered boats zipping around us on all sides.

A few stragglers after the onslaught.
Once we escaped the barrage of high powered boats at the inlet and turned north out of Morehead City, things calmed back down. We motored or motor-sailed the remainder of the trip. Other than a minor hiccup with an engine that had me down in the engine room with a wrench for an hour (note to self: never let that hungover marine mechanic in Palm Coast get near the engines again), the trip was uneventful.

We arrived at Dowry Creek (near Belhaven NC) about 5:30 in the evening. We are now officially across the goal line as far as insurance is concerned. Looks like we will be here for a week or so as we do a little maintenance and figure out what is next.

View off of our "porch" this morning.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

South Carolina Whack-A-Mole

Remember that old arcade/carnival game called Whack-A-Mole?  Well, we found an equivalent to play while motoring up the marshy Intracoastal Waterway in South Carolina. I'm not entirely sure what variant of annoying, biting, fly-like creature they are (deer fly we think), but the wet weather and low winds left us swarmed by them as we motored north from McClellanville SC.

McClellanville is definitely not a resort marina.
Oh, I guess I should mention we are making progress on the trip.  After making it to a marina just past Charleston on day two, day three had us sitting until noon, waiting on winds to die down so we could get the boat off the dock.  That day we made a short hop from Charleston to McClellanville.  Day four was the Whack-A-Mole adventure and finally a chance to make a run on the outside...all the way to Southport.

Anyway, after having enough of being harassed by the flies we went on the offensive. Out came a couple of cheap dollar store fly swatters and the battle began. By the time we were at Winyah bay the enemy had amassed a sizable casualty count and we had almost destroyed one fly swatter and started wearing down a second one.

Some of the enemy casualties and our well used weapon.
Despite the casualties lying all about the cockpit, the enemy didn't quit until we were making our retreat out into the Atlantic.

Spinnaker sailing in the evening.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful.  The seas were relatively calm and the winds were fickle.  At times we had 15 knots or more to sail with, other times found us using our spinnaker to aqueeze a little speed out of 5 knots, and there were times the wind died and left us motoring along on a single engine to make headway.

The sun setting somewhere near Myrtle Beach
And the full moon rising a few minutes later.
(More impressive in person...but low light photography
from a moving platform is difficult)
We arrived in Southport early this morning, tied up the boat, went out for breakfast, and then the entire crew crashed on the settee for a few hours.  We will be here for a few days as we deal with the logistics of the next leg of the trip. Time is running low, but we are almost out of our insurance-mandated hurricane exclusion zone.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Playing Motorboat Again

Well, our need to make tracks north and Mother Nature's need for unsettled weather along the southeast coast seem to be in conflict.  The trip would have been a few straight-forward hops on the outside, but for the high winds, unsettled seas, and threats of thunderstorms.  Since some progress is better than none, we opted to take the more protected route up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

With the weather forecast to be OK (except for the seas in the Atlantic), we departed Hilton Head on Wednesday morning.  We wound our way through the countryside and anchored in North Edisto river.  This morning we awoke to grey skies but nothing threatening and continued winding our way toward Charleston.

A part of our ICW path north of Hilton Head.

The twists, turns, bridges, and my unwillingness to travel it at night make travel on the ICW very slow.  In just over two days we could have made it from Hilton Head to Southport on the outside.  Instead, we made it just past Charleston.  As I sit here and write this the news is playing in the background and the local weather guesser is calling for more unsettled weather for the next couple days.  Guess our trek up the ditch will likely continue.

It isn't all bad though.  At least there is some different scenery to see.

Ladys Island Swing Bridge near Beaufort, SC.

Along the ICW.

Hard to believe the weather isn't going to be nice for a while.
I'd prefer to be using less fuel and making a bit better time, but I guess I'll just have to be happy playing motorboat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Not Going Anywhere

I have to admit, we haven't been all that impressed with Hilton Head.  The goal when we stopped here was that it was easier access to the ocean for our trip north.  Well, apparently Mother Nature has decided that we need to spend a little more time here.

US Evening Surface Map
The Weather Channel's forecast map

We tried making our escape yesterday afternoon in what was forecast to be a small weather window opening.  Unfortunately, the 10 to 15 knot winds were actually 25 to 30.  The seas were rough and we hadn't even made it past the Port Royal Sound.  We quickly decided that it wasn't worth getting beat up and made our way back to the marina.

12 hour forecast
The National Weather Service forecast map.
36 hour forecast
Not much different a couple days later.

Today the wind has died down, but thunderstorms and rough seas are  forecast for the next few days. So, maybe we will spend a little more time here and see if we can find the appeal of this area. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Few Hours in Savannah

As you know, we moved up to Hilton Head SC on our trip north.  We ended up choosing the marina we are at based on access to an inlet so we can easily get in and out on our trip and, of course, the price.  We needed a marina so we could shuffle cars up the coast once again (in addition to the usual costs of a car, when you are more transient, having a place to park a car or two while in transit can be a challenge).

As long as we have the cars available, we wanted do a little exploring. Honestly, we didn't know what to expect of Hilton Head, but what we found was very much a tourist vacation spot with lots of gated communities and resorts (I think more than a third of the island is locked behind a gate of some sort). And, honestly, this is not what we are looking for. We needed to get away and decided to spend a few hours exploring Savannah, GA.

We decided to take one of those city trolley tours since we only had a few hours and figured that was the best way to get our bearings and at least touch on a few highlights of the historic district.  Being able to hop on and off and check things out made sense.

Savannah is a charming city with an interesting layout. The city was laid out around squares, small park areas that make for a very charming city landscape.  I guess in the past the squares were places where the locals could congregate and even defend the city.  One square supposedly had a community oven that could be used so you didn't heat up your own home in the warm Georgia months (a concept most cruisers can appreciate).  We ended up walking part of the bus route and, although I was an idiot and forgot my better camera, did manage to get a few pictures with my phone.

Chippewa Square in Savannah
A picture with General Oglethorpe, a founder of Savannah.
One of the many Oak shaded streets in the historic district.
Not every day you see a Gothic style synagogue.
More typical historic Savannah.
Catholic church...more typical of Gothic style.
The Savannah River waterfront with the Westin hotel
in the background.
Unlike Hilton Head itself, I think this will be a place we will have to come back to and spend a bit more time exploring when we get the chance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Nature's Visitors

We are continuing our way up the coast. This leg of the trip took us from Hammock Beach, Florida to Hilton Head, South Carolina.  We left Hammock on Sunday morning and motored up the ICW to St. Augustine. There we motored out the inlet and made a beeline for Port Royal Sound. A day and a half later, we arrived at Skull Creek Marina along the northern side of Hilton Head Island.

The trip was mostly uneventful other than the usual inaccuracies of the weather forecasts. The one thing of note was the varied wildlife that came to visit us along the way. Pulling up the fenders in Hammock we found a couple small crabs hanging onto a string that was accidentally left dangling in the water. These were the first of several visitors for the trip.

After making our way out of St. Augustine, we were met by a couple of dolphins that came to play at the front of the boat. This is actually a fairly common occurrence, but this time the water was calm and they hung around long enough I could grab my phone and take some video.

Once the winds picked up and we were making good time under sail, a much larger pod of dolphins came and played in front of our boat for a while. We tried counting, and there must have bee at least a dozen swirling around and jumping in front of the hulls. I can't imagine how they can manage not to crash into each other as they go blazing by the front of the hulls. While dolphin visits aren't all that uncommon, it never seems to get old.

Early the next morning I found a small hitchhiker hanging on to one of the lifelines. Later he found a perch on the genoa sheet. I'm not sure that was the best seat given how the wind-filled sail would bounce the line around, but he hung on there for a while.

Later in the morning we spotted a turtle as we approached the sound. Of course, as is usually the case, he spotted us and dove before we could get a camera.

The last few thousand visitors came as we approached the Port Royal Sound.  The wind had died, and every manner of flying bug seemed to descend upon us.  Moths, flies, no-see-ums, and others that I couldn't identify. My homemade bug spray got a workout and I think it helped with the no-see-ums, but it wasn't perfect.  My wife got out a fly swatter and was playing "Whack-A-Mole" with them until bug carcasses littered the cockpit.  Fortunately the winds did pick back up, and they eventually scattered.

Lots of wildlife encounters, some good and some less so.  All part of the sailing adventure I guess.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Trying to Keep the Boat Happy

We are getting ready to make our trek back north of Cape Hattaras for hurricane season. The plan is to start the trek this weekend.  Our first stop will be Hilton Head, SC. where we will spend a few days playing tourist.  From there we haven't decided where to go (if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment, I figure we need a couple more stops).

As we prepare to go, I've been doing some work on the boat in hopes that it will make the boat happy and keep the gods of the seas, electricity, and diesel engines at bay.  These are finally items that aren't high priority, but nice to tick off of the list.

The first was re-rigging the davit system.  When I met another Leopard owner a while back he noted that the davit system on my boat wasn't rigged properly.  The result of this rigging problem was that loads weren't distributed evenly and the davit bar bent a bit when the previous owner used to store the dinghy with the motor attached on the davit. To re-rig it, I needed a new block with a becket and a longer line (the new rigging scheme requires the lines to criss-cross between the mount points on the arch and the davit bar.

A stop at Sailors Exchange and I was able to find 70 foot of the 1/2 inch line for $40.  I also picked up brand new line to replace the main halyard since their price is about half of West Marine's price for the same line and a bit cheaper than I have found elsewhere for New England Ropes stuff. I also found they had the really comfortable bosun's chair like the one I borrowed from a friend back in Brunswick and I couldn't pass it up.  Guess you can't take me into a sailing thrift shop.  Unfortunately they didn't have the block with becket or a stainless U bolt I was looking for, so we picked them up at Marine Supply & Oil Company.

New block and line and the davit is re-rigged.
The actual re-rigging of the davit was pretty easy.  I lowered the davit and removed the line.  I then moved the existing block at the arch to the position opposite of where it was.  The new block with the becket was added where the old block was removed. The new line was then tied around the becket, led down to the davit block, diagonally across to the other arch block, back down to the other davit block, diagonally across to the new block and through the remaining blocks to the winch.  This configuration does seem to allow the bar to self-level better and I believe it also gives me almost double the purchase...and that makes the dinghy easier to crank up on the davit.

The U bolt I mentioned was for a minor repair.  In the rudder system there is a line that acts as the steering stop.  On one side, the U bolt had rusted through and the line was no longer attached.  I've replaced the U bolt and reattached the line so the steering stop is once again working as designed.

I have been trying to figure out a good means of mounting the LED light strips I bought for the hardtop for a while now.  Not coming up with any really good ideas, I finally gave up and decided to see what would happen if I just stuck them up with the supplied adhesive.  The strip is supposed to be weatherproof and the controller is hidden in the wiring chase that is built into the hardtop, so hopefully it will be OK.  I guess only time will tell, but so far I like it and think it looks good enough.  And for under $30, if it doesn't work out, I guess I won't be out much.

That is a lot of light,
Remember this strip changes colors.  Here is red...
...and blue.
So, various systems on the boat got some attention.  Hopefully this will build up some good karma points for me with the boat.