Friday, May 30, 2014


Well, the weather that was forecast for this Thursday appears to have moved in.  A cold front moved through overnight and in addition to the colder temperatures and rain, have forecast five foot seas on a five second period in the Chesapeake (when the wave height = the period in seconds, that is a bad thing).  So, it doesn't look like we'll be going anywhere today.  I'll leave you with a couple more pictures from yesterday.

Motoring along the ICW.

Confederate Solider statue in Downtown Portsmouth.
The other free dock had more flooding at high tide.
Protecting the big navy ships are little security boats.  Kinda like guard dogs.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bridges and Locks - Coinjock to Portsmouth

Since I'm fairly new to this whole cruising gig, I wasn't sure quite what to expect for this leg of our journey.  It was all ICW and it had a few new potential challenges.  I've only had limited experience with bridges, most of which have been on-demand and not scheduled openings and I've never dealt with a lock before.  But all of that was ahead of us on this leg of the journey, so I had planned on a fairly short 45nm hop from Coinjock to just south of Norfolk.

We left Coinjock around 8am and were once again motoring up "The Ditch" (ICW).  I think the local osprey have decided that the ICW channel markers are their own version of government subsidized housing.  It seemed that just about every mark had an osprey nest on it with an osprey protecting her eggs.

Osprey with chicks living on a marker.  They seem to prefer the red ones.
As we continued motoring, the chart showed a bend in the river, outside the ICW channel, with a bunch of marked shipwrecks.

8 shipwrecks on the chart.
And, indeed you could see some of them from the boat.  One does wonder how so many boats met their end in this little elbow of water.

Broken boats all in a row.

Around noon, we made it to the first of the bridges that we needed to have opened that open on a fixed schedule.  The North Landing swing bridge opens on every half hour, and so naturally we arrived just a few minutes too late to make the opening.  This ended up giving me plenty of practice at station-keeping while we waited for the bridge.  Fortunately the ICW doesn't have a strong current and so this is pretty easy in a catamaran.  In fact, we ended up having lunch while waiting for the bridge.  Once the bridge opened and we were on our way, we figured out that we wouldn't be able to make the next opening of the next bridge on our route, so we throttled back to a speed that got us to the next bridge about 5 minutes before the following opening.

After the first two bridges, next was the Great Bridge and Great Bridge Lock.  The bridge opens in sequence with the lock since they are only a few hundred feet apart.  We had to wait for a few minutes, but pretty soon the bridge opened.

The Great Bridge opening up to let us through.

We then made our way to the lock.  We deployed fenders, found our boat poles, and setup a bow and stern dock line so we could take a ride in the lock. When we motored into the lock, one of the lock operators looped our lines around a couple of the big bollards on the shore and threw them back to us.  The idea is to keep your boat parallel to the lock wall without quite touching while the water raises or lowers.  There was only one other boat in the lock with us, Goose, as you can see below.

The Great Bridge Lock.

I admit I was a little nervous about the lock since I had never done it before and had heard of people having issues when locking, but it really was no big deal.  I imagine I might think differently if this were the Panama Canal and I was surrounded by big ships.

We were making good enough time that we decided to see how far we could get and ended up making it to Norfolk and had to go through the Gilmerton bridge.  I guess we got lucky that a barge was coming through the other way as I've heard this bridge doesn't open, except by reservation, during rush hours.

Gilmerton Bridge.  120ft clearance...I think we'll fit.

Passing through Norfolk and Portsmouth, you can really see these are big ship towns including a naval yard.

Norfolk waterside industry.

Naval Ship Yard.

An aircraft carrier can sure make you feel small.

We ended up at one of the free town docks in Portsmouth.  They are right downtown and convenient walking distance to a number of restaurants and stores.  The only downsides are the lack of marina amenities (water, power, bathhouse) and the fact that the dock is awash at high tide, but it is definitely nice for the price.  I'd recommend it for a short stay if you are in the area.

Rover tied up at the north Portsmouth free dock.

After the day's excitement, we decided to have dinner at one of the local sports bars as a celebration of making it through all the bridges and locks and ending up at a nice place to spend the night (and not having to pay for marina dockage).  I hear the weather is supposed to turn bad tomorrow, so we might be here an extra day if it sounds rough to travel.  Guess we will see if the weather guessers are right.

Where in the hell is Coinjock

After topping off our fuel at the Dowry Creek marina, we continued our trek northward along the ICW.  In the few places where we thought we might be able to do a little sailing, it seemed that the wind was right on our nose and there wasn't enough room or time to tack into the wind. So the motors ran the entire day.  The best we could do was attempt to motor-sail (deploying one or more sails while motoring) when the wind was at least 40 degrees off our nose.

Dowry Creek Marina

Motor-sailing does seem to help a bit, giving us an extra quarter or half a knot in speed.  When you are only going 6 knots to begin with, anything helps.

Abemarle Sound and the Swing Bridge in the distance.

Crossing Abemarle sound, out in the middle of a wide expanse of shallow water there is a highway with a swing bridge.  I'm told they only open this bridge when the wind is low, around 30 knots or less.  Given how shallow the water is, I can imagine it could be a wild ride out there if the winds are anything over 20 knots.

We had to deal with something in that sound that I haven't had to deal with since our lessons in Florida...crab pots.  The pots themselves are under water, but they have a line attached to a float so the fishermen can retrieve them.  If you run over one, the line can wrap around your prop and stop your engine so, obviously, you want to avoid these things. Unfortunately fishermen don't quite get the concept that the ICW is a heavily traveled corridor and seem to drop their strings of pots across the marked channel. I'm starting to see why people install line cutters on their prop shafts.  I know the fishermen are just trying to earn a living and that losing a pot can get expensive, but if you are putting them in the middle of the well traveled channel, you are being a bit irresponsible and losing a pot is not as bad as disabling and losing a boat.

So, about the title of this post.  There is a small marina in a narrow part of the ICW channel at, we'll call it town...of Coinjock.  They have a face dock that lines a pretty decent size section of one of the shores.  I'm pretty sure most, if not all, of the industry for this town is centered around the marina and servicing cruisers that are passing through.  Since it is the only game in town, their prices are a bit higher than some of the other marinas we've used on this trip, but it is a good place to spend the night if you are cruising through the area.  The marina store is pretty well stocked with a lot of basic provision needs and some boat supplies. Since there is no grocery store nearby, it is the only place around to get anything you might need.

Coinjock Marina

In the above picture, you can also see a river cruise ship that docks there to do some sort of shore excursion.  I can't imagine trying to pilot that boat through some of the twists and turns of the ICW.  I wonder if he unintentionally dredges the ICW to help keep the depths reasonable, we saw around 14 feet of water (and I've seen as little as 9 in other places further south of here).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oriental to Dowry Creek - The Spinnaker

Day three of the second attempt to move the boat from Brunswick Southport to Deltaville was a combination of sailing in the Neuse river, Pamlico Sound and Pamlico river as well as some motoring in ICW canals.  Since this was a shorter day trip of only 50 nautical miles, there was no nighttime passage, just day sailing.

Since I have a sailboat, I much prefer sailing to motoring and the day started out with wind of around 10 knots from the southwest. This sort of wind wouldn't give us very good speed with the traditional genoa and main sails.  Fortunately boat came with an asymetrical spinnaker that we thought might be a better option, and since I've been dying to try it, we thought it was time to give it a try.

It took a little bit to figure out the best way to rig it on the boat, but with a little trial and error, we were able to get it setup reasonably well. We tacked the foot of the sail to the windward cleat on the beam that runs between the hulls and supports the forestay, ran the sheet line to a block attached to an eye mounted on the deck of the boat near the sheet winches, and attached the halyard.  We raised the spinnaker (housed in a dousing sock) and then raised the sock to unfurl the spinnaker.  Pretty soon we were sailing at 5 knots in an 8 knot apparent wind.

The Asymetrical Spinnaker

With the color transfer stains in the sail, it was apparent that it spent most of it's life stored in it's bag.  But on this day, we used it twice, once sailing the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound, and a second time when we crossed the Pamlico river.  I wonder if we used the sail more this day than it had ever been used.

After it's first use, when we rounded the corner from the Pamlico Sound into the Bay river, we had to douse the spinnaker and, in an increasing wind, had to tack several times to make it up the river.  But we made it most of the way to the first ICW canal without having to burn diesel, how cool is that.  Hearing the rush of the water past the hull without the drone of an engine is one of the true pleasures of sailing.

We did have to do some motoring, as it is extremely difficult to traverse a narrow canal under sail.  About 4pm we arrived at the Dowry Creek marina where we spent the night.

The marina had a little Memorial Day celebration and cookout for the locals and transient boaters that were there.  Like many of these sorts of gatherings, it is generally pot luck style.  The marina provided hot dogs and most of the boaters brought side dishes or other snacks (note to future cruisers...always have something on board that you can whip together to bring to a party...this sort of thing happens on a semi-regular basis).  I'm not sure who it was, but someone even made homemade strawberry ice cream that was a very welcome treat.  It was another great day of traveling by boat.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Southport to Oriental

My new volunteer arrived in Wilmington NC last Tuesday and we spent a few days waiting for good weather, shuttling my car up to Deltaville, VA. and getting a couple last minute fixes done on the boat.  With all of that complete, we set sail on Saturday, leaving Southport behind.

Working hard on a sailboat.

Since Cape Fear and the Frying Pan Shoals are just north of the Southport inlet, I decided we should just take the ICW up from Deep Point marina and head out to the ocean at the next inlet instead of taking the hours it would take to skirt around the shoals.  Of course the next inlet, Carolina Beach, isn't navigable by larger boats due to the constantly changing shoals, so I chose the Masonboro inlet instead.  Motoring up the inlet it was immediately apparent it was the Memorial Day weekend.  There was a ton of traffic on the water and lining most of the local beaches.  After a few hours of dodging boats, we made it back out to the Atlantic.

Sailboats and motorboats, and jet-skis.

From there, the plan was to sail on the outside to Beaufort, and then continue via the ICW up to Oriental, NC so we would bypass Cape Hattaras.  Everything I've heard of Cape Hattaras indicates that you need to give it a pretty wide berth or it can be pretty dicey.  The winds weren't as favorable for this leg as they were for the last one, so we weren't able to go directly to Beaufort, but sailed more up along the coast.  This wouldn't be a bad thing, except there is a big restricted area that is surrounded by a bigger "danger zone" where the military likes to conduct training.  Not wanting to be a recipient of their training exercises, I ended up tacking several times to get far enough out to clear the zone during the night.

The tacks would result in the boat heading southeast, so a couple times I went and sat on the foredeck and just looked up at the stars.  It still amazes me how many stars you can see when the light and pollution of civilization isn't around.  By the end of my night watch, I had made it just far enough out to clear the danger zone and we should now be able to make it most of the way to Beaufort in a relatively straight course.

We were fortunate that we had wind most of my watch as the forecast called for them to lay down in the evening. Naturally, after I went to bed, the winds died down and we didn't end up making a lot of progress the remainder of the night.  I got up just in time so we both got to see the sun rise over the ocean.  With the sun up, you could see how amazingly calm the sea had become over the past few hours.  There was barely a ripple in the water, just a smooth and gentle roll like the ghosts of yesterdays waves.  We finally gave up on pure sailing and fired up an engine so we could make it to Beaufort in time for low tide and wouldn't have to fight a strong current going back in the inlet.  Other than the lack of wind for sailing, it was a beautiful day.

Once near Beaufort, we were again greeted by all the people making the best of the Memorial day weekend on the water.  Dodging a number of boats, we (along with several other sail and motor boats) made our way up the ICW and we ended up in Oriental, NC. around 4pm.  We took advantage of the marina showers, used the marina courtesy car to make a run to the grocery store, had dinner, and called it a night.

Our Route.

Rango, or another little green lizard, made an appearance as well.  Unfortunately when we found him later hiding under the cover of the BBQ grill, it appeared that his back legs were not working well.  We decided that his story would not end well if he were handicapped and trying to live on a boat, so we took him to shore at the marina and left him there.  Hope he can manage better in Oriental. Good luck little stowaway.

Is this Rango, the lizard from the earlier trip?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Vessel Safety Check

Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary would come out to your boat and perform a free safety check?  I didn't until my friend and fellow cruiser Doug clued me in when I was in Brunswick.

The safety check is basically an inspection of your boat to see that it is in compliance with all the coast guard rules.  Since this is an inspection designed to help people be in compliance, there are no penalties for any discrepancies...unlike if the Coast Guard stops you and finds a problem while you are out on the water.

So, I decided to get an inspection done before I left Brunswick.  Requested the inspection online here.  The next day had several USCG auxiliary members contact me offering to do the check and scheduling the check was painless.  The inspector arrived and performed the inspection and it took maybe an hour or so.  He went through and checked for all the needed safety equipment (fire extinguishers, flares, horn, lights, life jackets, placards, etc.), checked the vessel hull ID and USCG documentation number, checked to make sure our sanitation systems were in compliance (overboard valves wired shut), and gave me some tips and hints on a variety of subjects including the upcoming trip north.

The boat passed, and I was awarded my safety inspection sticker.

I don't know if it is true, but I've heard that the USCG may be less likely to stop you on the water, board your boat and perform an inspection if they see a current sticker on your boat.  In addition to knowing you are in compliance and not likely to be faced with a fine if you are boarded and inspected, having the sticker may save you some time and hassle by not getting stopped for inspection as often.

So, for free, it seems like a pretty good thing to do.  I'll certainly continue to have them done just to make sure I'm in compliance and safe on the water.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Stowaway

I haven't seen my stowaway since shortly after we arrived in Southport.  Either he has found a good hiding place or has decided he had enough of sailing.  Thought I'd post one more picture of him.  While I was at the helm he came over and climbed up on the winch, changed from his green to a more brownish color (still not good camouflage on the gray self-tailer on the winch) and took a nap.  Or maybe he was feeling a bit seasick, who knows.  In any case it he seemed pretty brave given how close he was to me at the time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thank You!

I continue to be surprised by my readers.  Okay, sometimes I'm surprised I have readers beyond a couple friends and family.  I guess the mundane tasks of preparing to cruise are more interesting than I think...either that or some of you are extremely bored. :-)

In any case, I have met more than a few people that I didn't know until I started this blog.  I've written in the past about meeting people while I was in Denver taking sailing classes and shopping for our boat. I've met others since I bought the boat. In fact, I've met folks via my blog at every stop I've made since I bought the boat. The last couple days I've had the chance to meet a couple people who wanted to meet once they found out I was in Southport, NC.

The first couple was in Southport this past weekend taking their ASA 101 and 103 courses.  So much has happened that it seems almost a lifetime ago since my wife and I were taking our first ASA courses in Colorado.  They are lucky they can take a course on the coast and not on a lake or reservoir...I'm sure that will give them a better feel for what ocean sailing is like.  They seemed pretty tired when they arrived, so I'm sure they had a busy day their first day of lessons.  They got to see my boat (which seems to always be a mess amid the constant projects that are going when I'm not sailing) and we had a nice chat. I wish them luck in their continued classes and future sailing plans.

The second couple lives a couple hours away and came down to take me out to lunch and talk about my experiences thus far.  They had actually offered to help with my boat move as well, but schedules just didn't seem to work out.  We talked about experiences of looking for and buying a boat as well as a variety of topics related to this adventure.  It amazes me that people I don't really know would want to drive that far to meet me. It's really neat to get to meet people that share the dream and I hope I didn't disappoint.

On a related note, another blog reader I met a while back has volunteered to come help me move my boat from Southport up to the Deltaville VA area.  So, with any luck I'll make my insurance requirement to be north of Cape Hatteras by June first.

So, I just wanted to say thank you to all my readers.  The kind words, encouragement, offers to help, and chances to meet and discuss this crazy thing are all appreciated.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Goodbye Brunswick, Hello....Southport

As I'm sure you are aware, I am trying to move my boat from Brunswick Georgia up to the Chesapeake bay area before the end of the month.  As the result of a recent post, I had a few people volunteer to help out.  One blog reader that contacted me said he had taken the ASA courses and had done some sailing but might be a bit rusty.  Since he was nearby and was willing to do the entire trip, it sounded like a good solution to moving the boat.

We met a few days before the planned trip and talked a little bit about the trip and the boat and everything seemed to go OK so we planned to have him come down last Wednesday and spend the night so we could get an early start Thursday and hopefully make Beaufort NC by Saturday.  The winds were forecast to be in the teens for our trip with seas of 1 to 2 feet on a four second period (for those that aren't aware, the comfort level of the ride has as much to do with the distance, or period, between waves as it does the height of the waves...and the closer the period in seconds comes to the wave height in feet, the more uncomfortable the ride is supposed to be).

We get up and make our way to the fuel dock at the marina to get fuel and a pump out before departing.  While I had arranged to get fuel when they opened in the morning, apparently someone came the night before and bought all of the fuel they had so we had to go to another marina to get fuel for the trip.  This put us a bit behind on our ambitious schedule to make it to Beaufort by Saturday.

We headed out the inlet and into the Atlantic, raised the sails, and started heading north/northeast.  The wind wasn't as high as forecast initially, so we started out motor-sailing (using both an engine and the sails to power the boat).  After a little while the winds picked up to around 12 knots and we were able to shut down the engine.  Finally, really sailing, with no motors, toward a new destination.  It felt good.

Yes, this IS a sailboat.

The weather was great, the sea was comfortable and we were making between 5 and 6 knots.  Speed of just a little under half the wind speed seemed pretty good to me.  At one point I discovered a stow away on board, I have a feeling he will be surprised when we get to our destination....if he survives the trip and gets off the boat at that point.  At one point I felt a little bad for him and offered him a little fresh water but he didn't seem interested.  Don't know how long he can survive without food, but I hope he knows what he got himself into.

My little stow away.

As the sun set, the sailing conditions remained very nice, with one foot seas and winds from the east/southeast between 10 and 12 knots.  This gave us a nice beam to broad reach sail.  For safety overnight we reefed the main sail and that reduced our speed to between 4 and 5 knots. A little after sunset we were off the coast of Savannah, Georgia.  Savannah is a pretty large port and there were a number of large cargo and container ships moving about in the area.  I periodically fired up the radar to check for vessels in the area and we kept a look out for them.  Since it was a nice clear night, we were able to see and avoid (although I don't actually recall having to alter course...but perhaps we did).

Sunrise from the helm.

We took 4 hour watches overnight and it was uneventful.  The water rushing past the hull with only the occasional need to fire up an engine or the generator to recharge the batteries (I'd run the generator if I needed AC power for other cheating and using the microwave, otherwise I would use an engine so we could get a few more knots for a little while).  As morning approached, the winds died down and so the "iron genny" (the motor) was started again so we could maintain a 5~6 knot speed.  During my morning watch there was a small pod of dolphin (I think I saw 6 or so jumping out of the water) heading directly for the boat.  I thought they might be coming to play at the bow as they often do so I went to get my camera.  Of course, when I got back out with the camera, they were nowhere to be found.  Oh well.  It was cool to see them.

Track of the first half of the trip

We passed by Charleston around 8 AM and continued motoring most of the day.  In fact, the wind was light enough from behind us that I couldn't keep the sails filled when motoring so I doused the sails entirely. Doing some calculations on where we were, I decided we weren't likely to make it all the way to Beaufort before sunset on Saturday, so I decided we would divert to Southport, NC.  Finally in the afternoon, the winds started picking up and we were able to raise the sails and once again shut down the engines.  By sunset we were in Long Bay and about 45nm from Southport.

Sunset.  There is land over there somewhere.

Naturally, the winds picked up a bit overnight and even with reefed sails we made it to Southport at about 4am.  Since I didn't want to navigate the channel at night and no marinas would be open anyway, I decided to heave-to and wait for daylight and the local marinas to open.  After sunrise we made our way into the channel and, after a little additional waiting, got a hold of the marina and we were back on a dock.

Track of the second half of the trip.

I wish I could say that everything went well on the trip, and as for the sail itself it did.  Unfortunately I made some decisions that led to quite a bit of frustration.  With the fuel fiasco and the added delay, I skipped doing a few maneuvers that I had planned before we headed off.  Had I stuck to the plan I think I would have realized earlier that my crew was more than just "a little rusty".  I'm no sailing instructor, but perhaps if I had better understood his lack of basic sailing skills I could have compensated before the frustration set in.  We ended up parting company in Southport and I shuttled him back to get his car and to pick up mine.

I learned quite a bit on this trip.  For one, I need to do a little better job evaluating crew skills before setting off on a trip.  I learned that, while it is easier to have a hand, I can single-hand the boat if I need to.  I learned the grace of a dolphin swimming through the ocean in the morning.  I learned the peacefulness of watching the sun rise over the ocean when no land is in sight.  I learned that I really need to get my wife out here with me soon.

P.S. If you are in the Southport, NC. area (or somewhere else) and would like to go sailing and help me move the boat, let me know.  You don't need to be an expert, just have some desire...and an honest evaluation of your skills so I can set proper expectations. And don't be offended if I quiz you on a few things so I get an accurate assessment.

P.P.S. If you are concerned with our stowaway...despite his occasional precarious perch (at one point I found him on the foot of the genoa when I unfurled it) and lack of food, I did see him roaming the boat after we made it back to dock.  So, he survived the trip too.  Hope he likes North Carolina.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jekyll Island

The islands outside of Brunswick are known as the Golden Isles and are a reasonably popular tourist and sightseeing destination in the area.  I took a few hours off from the boat work to visit Jekyll Island the other day.  There is a $6 charge to get to the island and they apparently use the money to work on biking and hiking trails and other support for tourist activities.  It is a more natural island than St. Simons (which is

I went and took a walk on driftwood beach.  I took my good camera, unfortunately I didn't check the battery before I left and as a result found the battery dead after trying to take a picture.  So, I only have a few images I snapped with my cell phone.

It was a nice walk and a good chance to see some of the more natural beauty of the area.  Wish I had my mountain bike with me, this island seems like it would be a good place to ride around.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Art of Fixing Your Boat...

I apologize for the lack of posts of late.  Don't worry, I am still alive and well and pursuing the dream. I even have a number of things I would like to write about, but time has been an issue.

The past couple weeks I've been spending most of my excess time trying to put together the trip for moving my boat from Brunswick Georgia up to the Chesapeake bay area.  It seems that each time I would start getting a plan together, something would fall apart.

You see, my boat isn't setup the way I would like for single-handing (the anchor windlass can't be controlled from the helm and lines to raise, lower, or reef the sails are not run to the cockpit).  And, even if it were, I would feel more comfortable having a second hand as it makes things much easier.  Add in the fact I need to move pretty far north and that would include a couple overnight passages along the coast and having a helping hand to take a watch becomes a necessity.  Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, my wife cannot come help me for this move.

It has been surprisingly difficult to find a helping hand.  I finally had someone that could help me get from Brunswick to Charleston and even help me get the car moved as well.  Unfortunately my boat had other plans...otherwise I would be on my way to Charleston instead of writing this.

Yesterday, In preparation for the trip, I went to move the boat from my slip to the fuel and pump-out dock. Unfortunately the port engine, which worked a week ago, failed to start. I don't know how many times I've heard that "Cruising is the art of fixing your boat in exotic locations"...but I'd hardly consider Brunswick Georgia exotic. The problem sounded similar to how your car sounds when your battery is almost dead.  I checked the battery and it showed a full charge resting voltage of ~12.7 volts.

For several hours, I went through checking and cleaning connections to the battery and the starter and all paths in between, but the starter just wasn't happy.  All indications pointed to the starter or starter solenoid needing replacement (they are integrated on this starter). Not wanting to start the trip one engine down, I had to cancel the trip.  Unfortunately the help I had found can only do weekends and, because of mothers day, next weekend was out.  So, I'm back to square one on the trip planning again...and a starter that isn't behaving.

I ended up pulling the starter last night and took it to a local auto parts store this morning to have them test it.  Imagine my surprise when it worked just fine on their test bench.  So, back to the boat I went with my apparently working starter.  I cleaned all the connections again.  I also cleaned the mounting surfaces and bolts for the starter (starters ground through the case to the motor and the starter was partially painted "Westerbeke red"). I replaced the start switch line blade connector as well since it wasn't in the best shape.  Once I got everything back together, the starter once again worked and the engine roared to life.  Now why couldn't it have done that yesterday.

So, now I just need to find someone to help me move the boat...again.  If you happen to be interesting in going for a sail from Brunswick Georgia to somewhere along the route to the Chesapeake bay area in the next week or two, drop me a line.

Up The Mast...Again

My first attempt at going up the mast I tried using my ascenders and harness and went up to check the deck light that was about 1/3 of the way up.  What I found was a broken wire that I didn't have the tools with me to repair, so I needed to go back up. This time, prepared with the knowledge of what was wrong, I had the crimpers and connectors needed to hopefully repair the light.

While the ascenders were interesting and an effective way to go up the mast by myself, I decided this time I would try to find a helper to winch me up.  Doug, the neighbor at the dock that went on a day sail with me a little bit ago was kind (or was it crazy) enough to volunteer to help and I took him up on it.  Another dock neighbor offered his fancy padded Bosun's char as well, so I decided I would give it a try too.

Doug winched me up on the spinnaker halyard while we used the main halyard as a safety line.  I also rigged up a small block and line so Doug could "hand" me things like the heat gun for the heat shrink on the connector.  Getting to the deck light was less effort for me this time...I think Doug mentioned passing the 6-pack point on the payment scale.  He was also kind enough to take a picture for me.

Heat shrinking a connector while hanging from the mast.

Cutting off the old connector, stripping the wire and attaching a new connector was pretty straight-forward...just needed to be very mindful not to drop anything.  Using the block and line, Doug passed me the heat gun and I was able to heat-shrink things so hopefully it will last a bit longer than last time.  I connected the bulb and had Doug go flip the switch...and...viola...there was light.  At some point I would like to replace the bulb with an LED equivalent, but for now at least the light works so nighttime on the deck should be a little safer.

I couldn't use the spinnaker line as the main line because it does not go all the way up the mast. Like many catamarans, mine is a fractional rig and the spinnaker halyard terminates just above the forestay.  I came down the mast and we re-rigged the lines so I could use the main halyard to go all the way up to the top and have the spinnaker as a safety line.  This also means I needed to go up on the back side of the mast instead of the front.

Going up the back side of the mast was more difficult due to a couple reasons. The lines for the stack pack (main sail cover designed so the sail will drop into the "bag" that makes the cover) go a good way up the mast to help guide the sail into the pack when you lower it and I needed to work my way through them.  The mast also curves back a bit so letting go of the mast will cause you to swing away from it.  Of course, my usual luck with weather also kicked in and a breeze started blowing from the front of the boat as well.  Between the wind and the angle of the mast, I decided to abort the attempt after getting about 2/3 of the way up. I just didn't feel like becoming a human flag that day. In hindsight, I should have rigged a line I could wrap around the mast to keep me next to it.  Guess I at least learned something on the attempt.

So, the small white anchor light at the top of the mast remains out due to reasons unknown, but the deck light is now operational.  As I'm learning about boat maintenance, one out of two ain't bad and I did learn something new for the next attempt.

As a side note...

Now that I've used both a climbing harness and a Bosun's chair, I have some real world experience for a comparison.  The big padded board of the chair is more comfortable.  The big mesh pockets were also a nice feature...but can easily be added to the harness as well.  The chair is a bit more cumbersome to handle on deck...getting in and out of as well as standing up once you are in the chair.  If you try to help the person winching you up by using your legs to climb as you reach footholds, you also tend to slide forward in the chair (I assume I would experience similar problems if using an ascender with foot loops to go alone) and the strap between your legs holding you on the chair can  Overall, I think the harness does feel more secure (even though it would probably be quite a trick to fall out of the chair) but the chair is a bit more comfortable.  I think I am happy with the decision I made there...although I may borrow a chair again sometime if someone were to offer and I'm not using ascenders.