Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day in Southport

We have decided to hang out in Southport until Memorial Day, mostly waiting for more favorable winds to continue our trek north (the winds blowing from the north are expected to shift east and then south by the end of the holiday weekend).  We are also taking advantage of the marina WiFi to continue researching boatyards where we can have some work done once we get "up north"...wherever that is.

Provisions...

Southport is a picturesque little waterfront town.  It obviously survives on tourism these days as the old downtown area has lots of little antique, gift, and knick-knack shops. Right along the water are a few restaurants that are nice places to hang out in the evening, have a beer, and watch the boats on the water.  One of the best places to grab a bite to eat is the Yacht Basin Provision Company, better known as just "Provisions".  They are a simple bar and restaurant where you can satisfy a seafood or burger craving, and the prices are cruiser friendly (We both had a nice crabcake sandwich for $5.95...sides were extra...and split 1/4 lb. of peel and eat shrimp at around the same price). They even have a dock you can stay at if you can find the space and eat there...but only one of their spaces will fit a catamaran.

The bar and seating at Provisions

Being the frugal sort and yet still wanting to stay at a marina as we get the dogs more used to life on a boat, we decided to re-position the boat from the Southport Marina (where we limped in on one engine) to Deep Point Marina that is just outside of town (about 2 miles).  Instead of paying $1.75/ft/day (or $66.50) we are paying $1.20/ft/day (or $45.60) and getting the 3rd night free.  In addition, Deep Point has a pool and free laundry...a couple of nice amenities.  The down side is, of course, they aren't right in the middle of town.

Deep Point Marina, with Rover on the right.

While we were here, I also got to meet back up with someone I met the last time I was passing through town.  Walt and his wife had sent me a note through the blog and wanted to come down and meet me and see the boat.  At the time they were just taking sailing lessons and wanted to check out my boat and chat about my experiences.  I guess they liked the boat, because now they own a 1999 Leopard 38 too.  This time we got to compare notes on the boats and any tips and tricks we had figured out along the way.  Getting a chance to see another identical hull is always a great way to get ideas for improvements or just better ways of doing things.

Walt and Us on James and Emily's Catamaran

While we were chatting on his boat, a very cool young couple that Walt met the previous night dropped by.  James and Emily are in their late 20's and are just getting back from a cruise from New England down to the BVI.  And get this, they did it on a catamaran they built themselves.  How cool is that!  Looking at the boat, you wouldn't think it was home-built...it looks very nice and professionally finished.  We had a good time talking with them and hearing about their trip, and I only wish I had thought to do something like this when I was younger...bu better late than never, right? They have a blog of their trip, you can check it out here: http://dragonflysail.com/

Chatting with James and Emily

So, in this mad rush to get north, we are still taking a little time to enjoy ourselves.  Now if I can only find a DIY boatyard in the Chesapeake that can accommodate a 21' 3" wide catamaran.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Heading into Southport

In case you missed it, the first part of the trip can be found here.  Continuing on...

During the second full day of sailing, the winds calmed down and we once again made our way using a combination of sailing and motor sailing in order to make reasonable headway.  I guess I can't complain though, if we were in the ditch, we would likely be motoring the whole way and, in addition, we would have to stop at night and that would make the trip take a lot longer. In the afternoon the wind started clocking around to the southwest, dead at our backs.  With the light winds, I decided to put up the spinnaker for a little while.  I do like that asymmetrical spinnaker, it seems to get the boat moving at over 1/2 the wind speed in broad reaches and downwind directions.

Spinnaker on the open ocean

Thus far I've typically planned trips using a speed of about 5 knots unless the trip is forecast to be beating directly into the wind and I want to actually sail it (I haven't figured out what speed I should use then, but am guessing about 2 knots). A good portion of this trip has been in excess of 5 knots, so it looked like we would be making it to Southport around 2am.  As evening arrived, the winds started picking up from the southwest and, a bit unexpected to me, the seas started picking up from the southeast to around 3 foot on a 5 second period.

Checking the weather forecast, it was now calling for scattered thunderstorms offshore in the Cape Fear area.  As night fell, we could see the thunderstorm clouds building to our east.  The lightning would light up the clouds.  It is a nice thing to watch...from a distance. Since the winds were continuing from the southwest and the offshore breezes would also come from the west, it should keep the storms to the east of us.  But since we had time anyway, we decided to turn the boat westward and make our way closer to shore.  We pointed the boat towards Myrtle Beach and made our way from 30 NM off the coast to around 6 NM.  When we got closer to shore, we also found a little calmer seas.

After the detour near Myrtle Beach, we ended up arriving outside of the Cape Fear river inlet at Southport around 6am.  Since we would be heading pretty much into the wind coming into the inlet, We went to start the engiines.  Unfortunately, the starboard engine, which had been just fine up to this point in the trip, decided not to wake up.  The attempt made the clicking sound that is reminiscent of a dead battery.  That same battery just happens to be the one that also starts the generator and the generator started just fine (and the voltages on the batteries seem fine).  My best guess was that there was some corrosion and the starter wasn't getting enough power, so I spent the next hour, as we slowly motored in on a single engine, down in the engine room cleaning all the starter connections.  Unfortunately that didn't help.  So, here we were again, one engine down and needing to navigate to a marina slip.

Another sunrise over the Atlantic

This time, having a bit more experience with the boat, I decided to give the marina a call and see if they have a dock I can get to without a lot of tight maneuvering.  They did, so I was able to bring the boat into the dock and then, using the lines, the crew walked it around the T-head to the slip.  The Southport marina also has a maintenance yard next door and, having just completed a 3 day passage, I was too tired to look into the problem myself.  They were able to send a technician over later that day and found that excessive corrosion inside the ground cable end had caused  the issue.  They cleaned up the cable, crimped on a new end, and added heat shrink to help protect it from future corrosion (the heat shrink on the original cable had failed and that is where the corrosion started).  Since I didn't have the tools or parts, it ended up being a good call to have them come do the work.

Tucker exploring the boat near the start of the trip

I guess I haven't really mentioned our furry crewmembers much.  For the most part, they are doing fine.  They seem to be adjusting to life on a mobile floating house OK.  To them it is probably just like a big car ride where we are taking all our stuff with us.  The one exception is dealing with the "potty mat".  Even though it should have the right smell to them, neither of them are really sure of the thing.  Tucker managed to do his business there after some coaxing, but our older dog Madison could only be convinced to pee there once.  She held her other business until she was back on shore.

Madison resting in the cockpit, tethered of course.

And for Pete, who jokingly mentioned something about eating Spam on passage, here is dinner the second evening...shrimp with a creamy tomato, garlic, and basil sauce freshly prepared en route.

Shrimp and pasta for dinner.

So, now we need to figure out where we are going from here since we still don't have a final destination in mind.  Oh, and I guess we have a couple more repairs to add to the list, so we may be looking for a place to haul out again.  Such is life on a boat.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

And We're Off

For the first time since we bought the boat over a year ago, our entire household is on the boat. The house back in Colorado has sold and just about everything we own is floating in Hammock Beach. Or, it was anyway...


We have been rushing up against our insurance deadline to be north of Cape Hatteras by June 1 so we needed to start our move north.  Given the tight time frame, we can't really just meander up the coast as we would have liked, but instead need to make it a quicker trip.  The plan was to take the ICW up to St. Augustine, the next inlet, and then sail on the outside up to Southport NC.  The weather forecasts looked like it was going to cooperate for the trip, so on Sunday afternoon we departed.

The trip up the ICW went fast as we were riding the current out.  We left just after 3pm and made the 6pm opening of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.  While waiting for the bridge, a Gemini catamaran pulled up behind us, and it was no other than my friend (and former broker) Pete.  He was moving a newer Gemini Legacy to another local marina after it had been at a local boat show (as I've said before, maybe the hardest working man in the boating industry).  It was a nice surprise to see him as we were heading out.  He even managed to snap a few pictures of us.

Waiting on the Bridge of Lions...or pirates.

Pete following us through the bridge.

After making our way out of the inlet, we found the ocean was a little more active than forecast.  Instead of the 2 foot seas on an 8 second period and 15 knots of wind, we were greeted with 3 foot seas on about a 4 second period with winds of 23~26 knots. The one plus was that both the waves and the winds were from the south to southeast so it would feel more comfortable going northeast than any southerly direction. Not the ideal conditions for introducing my wife to a night passage, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Unfortunately she did get a bit seasick that first night.  After taking some Bonine she started feeling better.  Over the course of the night the winds and waves did finally calm down. By 5am the seas were around 1 foot on a 6 second period and she was feeling good.

For my non-sailing readers...or those not familiar with the above numbers, the quick rule of thumb on sea state is that it is usually pretty comfortable when the wave height in feet is one-half (or less) the wave period in seconds.  As the ratio approaches 1:1, things start feeling pretty rough.  So, in general you would rather be sailing in 4 foot seas on a 12 second period than in 3 foot seas on a 3 second period.  Hope that makes a little sense.

Another sunrise on the Atlantic

That first morning we were also visited by our first pair of dolphins.  They were having fun playing in the pressure wave at the front of the boat.  Later on in the trip we were visited two more times by dolphins that came to play.  Of course, I think I run across photo-averse dolphins since each time I decide to go get a camera, they generally disappear.  Oh well, it is nice to see them and superstition claims their visits bring good luck...and we could certainly use that.

Along with the gentler seas the second day came more fickle winds, so we ended up doing a a combination of sailing and motor-sailing most of the day.  Winds cycling between 3 and 8 knots during the day.  By that evening the fickle winds had allowed the seas to calm to 1 foot on a 9 second period.  A good time for the wind to pick up a bit so we could sail...and it did.  Maybe it was the luck of the dolphins, but regardless of the reason I'll take it.  We were able to sail through the night on 8 to 14 knot winds, and by our second morning we were abeam Charleston, SC.

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when sailing at night.  During the day, you can look in all directions and see nothing but the ocean for the entire day.  Once night falls, it seems that all the big cargo ships appear as if out of nowhere.  Maybe it has just been the timing of my passages that I seem to go by all the traffic lanes in and out of the major port cities during the night, but both my wife and I have noted that these large ships appear like The Flying Dutchman in the movies. In any case, trying to decipher the navigation lights from the myriad of deck lighting on these large ships can keep you entertained at night.

A rare daytime cargo ship sighting.

Well, there are things that need to get done today, so I will have to save the rest of the story for next time.  Until tomorrow...





Saturday, May 16, 2015

Plans In The Sand

I don't know how many times I've heard that cruisers plans are written in the sand, and I can't remember if I read it somewhere or if I added the "at low tide" myself, but the phrase in either form is definitely an axiom in cruising.  Plans are swept away as quickly as they are created just as impressions made in the the sand on a beach are swept away by the waves lapping at the shore.  Even the best built sandcastle will eventually succumb to the relentlessness of the sea.

And so have a dozen variants of my most recent plan.

The original plan...or as far back as I can currently remember as original...was that I would spend a little time researching good welders and perhaps a good fiberglass person to help me construct a hard top bimini to replace my soft top.  Oh wait, that wasn't the original...the original variant was that I would find someone over a year ago to construct one for me...so I guess this is the original version of the latest attempt of this plan.  All I need is to find a decent welder, some space to work, and a helping hand (preferably with more glass experience than I have).  Depending on what I could find, I could alter the plan for the top to suit the ability levels and would still be happy with the result.

I knew of a welder in St. Augustine who was good.  I knew that the marina I've stayed at in Palm Coast has another property that is a boat storage and place to work.  I even knew of a couple people who know a lot about glass, and I hoped I could bounce a few ideas off of them and maybe even beg for help if it became necessary.  After arriving, I found that the storage space was reported to be having some theft problems and the welder had unfortunately had a stroke and the family was selling off the business at auction.  So, I guess that idea wouldn't work.

Then I figured I could look for a yard in the Chesapeake where I could execute the above plan.  I mean, there are a lot of boats up there and a lot of craftsman that build them too.  How hard could it be?  Well, unfortunately much of the Chesapeake seems to have missed the memo on the popularity of catamarans and don't have the ability to accommodate a boat that is over 21 foot wide.  Every time I seemed to locate one piece of the puzzle, I failed to find the others.  There is a dock at a yard, but they won't let me do the work, over there is a yard that will let me do the work but they don't have a dock I can fit at.  And my favorite was a dock with work space, and they only wanted double the rent that I'm paying where I'm staying now and they really didn't want me doing fiberglass work because it is too messy for their yard.

Nation's Capitol...some repair required
So, since we need to get the boat moving, I changed plans again.  I asked a friend of mine who lives in the Baltimore area if they could babysit a car while we figure out where we are going to end up in the Chesapeake.  They very graciously said they would keep an eye on it and so we spent the last two and a half days taking the car up to Maryland (many thanks Matthew and Janet).  We originally intended the trip to be two long driving days but then another thing came up, this time a positive one.  My friends at the Retirement Project were only 45 minutes or so away from where we were staying, so we made plans to stop by and say hi to them before heading back.  It was nice to finally meet them in person, after having interacted with them via e-mail and the blog for so long.  Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule TJ and Deb.

LOTS of driving.
We ended up visiting for a little bit, and as a result, we only made it back as far as Savannah before we gave up and grabbed a hotel for the night.  The next morning we completed the trip, with a little detour into St. Augustine for some provisioning and to check on a couple of parts...because you know something had to break a few days ago (fortunately nothing critical) just to mess with more of my plans.

South of the Border - You know it is a tourist trap when billboard advertisements start appearing 110 miles away.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Greetings From Maryland

Yes, you read that right.  We are in Maryland.  Did we just set a speed record for sailing a Leopard?  Well, unfortunately not.  While our insurance folks would like to hear the boat is with us, it is still tucked in its slip in Florida.

We are in the process of repositioning our cars so we will have one available in the area when we find a place for the hardtop work. An old friend and work colleague has very generously offered to babysit a car while we move the boat. So today we made the drive up with both cars so we could drop one off with him.

It was a 14 hour trip and we are exhausted, so I'll keep this short. While we haven't decided on exactly where to do the work while we wait out hurricane season, at least we will have a car in the area to help once we do find something.

Here are a few random observations from the trip.  It seems that most parts of the country with seasons only have two of them: winter and road construction. Virginia and S. Carolina have cheaper gasoline prices than the other states we were in...by as much as 40 cents a gallon.  S. Carolina has lots of billboards advertising canned vegetables. Travel by interstate may be fast, but isn't very scenic...billboards not withstanding.

I'll try and write more later... I'm going to bed.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Next Stop...um...

Well, we really need to be making our way north...but we haven't left yet.  The simple reason...we aren't quite sure where to go.  Due to insurance we need to be north of Cape Hattaras by June 1st, but they don't really care where beyond that.

Right now, the controlling factor is trying to figure out where we can go so we can make some progress on the hard top project.  For quite a while now I've wanted to replace the soft bimini on the boat with a hard top.  The new top would provide me with a safer way to access the boom and would provide a good platform for the solar I want to add to the boat.

I've tried getting this project rolling several times now after the $15K sticker shock of the pre-fabricated top I found, but have not had much luck.  Lack of reliable tradespeople have been a big issue (this project was originally on the list for the yard last year in Deltaville...where they barely accomplished anything in the course of the summer).  While I'm not an expert, I think I can manage to build a fiberglass top myself (especially when most of the surface will be covered in solar panels or non-skid), but the issue there is having decent work space and access to a good welder.

I thought I might be able to get the project going while in Hammock, but the work space I thought might work out ended up not being a good option.  And the welder I had hoped to use (one that did a great job on some minor welding I had done before) apparently had a stroke and I found the family was auctioning off the business when I arrived back in the area.  It is very sad as a good person in the boating industry is hard to find and I'm sure he will be missed.

A blogging friend has offered to help with the project and right now that seems like the best possibility.  But there are logistical issues with timing and if the yard they are stationed at can accommodate my boat (catamarans just don't fit everywhere...particularly narrow slips and Travellift bays). Throw in the fact we still have cars and it sounds like we may need them for the project and shuttling them back up the coast and storing them as we travel is another added wrinkle.

So, other than continuing cataloging everything we have and fixing things that seem to continually break on the boat, we are working on leaving as soon as we can get a plan to firm up a bit.  Maybe things will fall in place tomorrow...keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Homeless...With Too Much Stuff

I woke up this morning and find myself, for the first time in about 23 years, homeless.  At least that is how the government sees me.  We closed on the house yesterday evening without even being there, having Fed-Ex'd the signed paperwork to the title company a couple days ago.  So today I have no fixed address.


And yet for having no house, we still seem to have a lot of stuff.  So today we spent more time trying to find places for stuff.  Ever since I moved aboard, I've been using the rear berth as a storage area. The cabinet in the berth was where the previous owner had put some spares and supplies already, so it just became the defacto garage.  Whenever I had larger items or things that I just didn't know where to stow, they ended up piled in that berth.  So yesterday I decided I wanted to reclaim that berth...or at least most of it.

We now have two nice dry storage areas in the peaks of the two hulls, and those seemed like the perfect places.  You don't really want to store heavy items in the ends of the hulls, but the space would be perfect for big and bulky items. Rolls of fabric for the dinghy chaps project and window coverings went in the hold.  Other longer term project items found their way to the spaces further from the holds hatch.

It had a LOT more stuff in it when we started.

A couple of the items that have been living on the berth bed were my bags of hand tools.  The main reason I was storing them there is that is where I also had the dehumidifier hooked up, and I figured keeping the tools in the least humid part of the boat was a good idea.  But they can't take up permanent residence on the bed, so I had to come up with another solution.

Since the port forward hold is at the opposite corner of the boat from the generator, I figured placing the tools there would help to balance out the boat (the starboard rear always sat just a little lower in the water due to the generator).  But what to do about moisture and rust.  I did some research and found that some people recommended linseed oil as a protectant and others suggested storing tools in boxes with DampRid or a similar product to help dehumidify the tools.

Anyone know where I can get a pie shaped container?

Looking into DampRid, I found the chemical they use is Calcium Chloride, which can be purchased cheaper in pool supply stores or as ice melt.  The other problem is that it dissolves into solution as part of the water attracting process, which I thought might get messy and makes reuse difficult.  Continuing my research I found a better option...I think.  You know those little packets of stuff you find in electronics packaging and medicines?  It is called silica gel (and the packets usually say "silica gel, do not eat") and it is a desiccant that doesn't dissolve.  In fact, you can reuse it by drying it out in an oven at 250 degrees for a while.  This sounded like a better option to me.

But how do you get a lot of silica gel without buying thousands of dollars worth of electronics or thousands of bottles of aspirin?  If I had only known I could have saved all those little packets, but they are long gone.  You can, however, buy it in bulk at your local craft store (Michael's or similar).  But don't go in there and ask them for silica gel or a desiccant or a chemical to keep tools from rusting or you will get some strange looks.  However, if you go and ask them for the stuff used to dry flowers, they will point you to a 5 pound box of the stuff.  Then all I needed was a way to use it without making a mess and picking grit out of my tools.

The solution I came up with is similar to small versions of the DampRid buckets.  I found some small plastic containers with screw-on lids from the dollar store, and a pair of pantyhose from the same place. I cut holes in the middle of the lids, smoothed the holes with a lighter, and cut bands of the pantyhose (also using a lighter so they wouldn't unravel) to make screens for the holes.  Fill the container about half-full of silica gel, place the pantyhose over the opening, screw on the lid, and presto - one large, spill resistant desiccant pack.  I found a couple storage boxes with gaskets and placed my tools in those boxes along with a couple of my desiccant jars.  Hopefully that along with the oil treatment will help keep the rust at bay.

Homemade desiccant jars

So, I've reclaimed some of the space in the berth now...at least enough I can now access the engine underneath without having to move a bunch of stuff.

Hold filling up.

One other interesting thing happened yesterday.  A nice guy I met back in Colorado at ZeroToCruising's party dropped by for a visit.  He is originally from the north Florida area and was visiting family.  He stopped by, and I gave him a tour of our boat (even though it was a total mess right in the middle of our reorganization attempt), a tour of the marina, and then we went to lunch.  Since he was a local and likes to fish, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions because I still know almost nothing about deep sea fishing.  We had a nice visit before he had to head back to his family.  Thanks for stopping by David, it was good to see you again, and thanks for lunch too!

Well, I had better get back to work so we can get this boat moving north.