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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Back at Home

As stated earlier, " The longer it's been the more fun we had!". Rich read parts of the blog and then said "By reading your blog, you would think we had a good time!" Actually, we did. There were some unsettling moments such as the thunderstorms and general bad weather, but overall it was a memorable experience.
I found myself thinking about the next trip before I had been home a week. What did I learn? Oh, dozens of things. You can ask questions, do research, read books, or whatever, and the actual experience always has a few surprises. Of course, each area you sail in will have its own lessons to teach. And you can almost always say that the actual weather and sea conditions will be worse than NOAA says it is.
What would I change? The thing that sticks out the most is that I want to install a waterproof speaker similar to my stereo speakers so that I can hear the VHF better. I had a handheld, but didn't use it any as the sound from the mounted radio was much more intelligible, plus I have been told I am hard to understand when using the handheld. It may be that I need a new or different handheld.
I could have used some cockpit cushions. We sat on the throwables but they weren't very comfortable.
I installed battery powered LED cabin lighting, and we had adequate light. The squeaky plywood filler panels used to make bunks are going to have to be reworked.
We had a portapotty and some single use toilet bags, but we didn't use either. Fortunately we didn't have to as we managed to make it to a marina most nights. We did make good use of the red plastic urinal purchased at Gander Mountain. This was a wise investment.
Blues Image is in the drive way at the moment with Christmas lights on it. She'll get back in the water at Watts Bar Lake sometime around April. In the meantime, we will be planning her next great trailer adventure!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Friday


Friday dawned bright and beautiful, but with the promise of strong winds. We had decided that with the weather forecast as it was, we would go ahead and leave for home. We tidied up the boat and began to make her ready for the long ride to Knoxville. Rich advised that we should get her out of the water as soon as possible because the wind was picking up quickly. He pulled the boat out of the slip with a dock line while walking along the seawall, gave the bow a little push and then I had enough room to head out without bumping into the next door neighbor, a slum trash Island Packet. (Jealousy rears its ugly head here). I goosed the Honda and we headed out of the channel along the seawall, turned right back towards the bridge, and the boat ramp.

I could feel the wind and waves as soon as we cleared the seawall. Probably about 15 to 20 knots. Rich had walked back up to the Neuse River Suites to get the truck and meet me at the ramp. I circled off the ramp for a few minutes until he arrived, and then I eased up to the windward side of the dock and tied up. For all of the wind, there were several folks going out to fish either for fun or for work, so we rigged the extension tongue on the trailer while waiting for the ramp to clear.
Eventually, it was our turn, and Rich backed the trailer in the water. By now the water was white capping and getting pretty rough even in the harbor. I spent the next 30 minutes in extreme discomfort as we tried to get the boat on the trailer and snugged up with the winch. By the time we were successful, I was exhausted and the boat had quite a few new scratches.
My project this winter will be to weld on some guides and rework the trailer winch so that I can reach it without laying full length over the bow on top of the cleat and under the bow pulpit while straining my guts out to crank the dang thing.
An hour spent taking down the mast, storing all the sails and rigging, retracting the tongue, and we were almost ready to go. We then noticed the boat had slid back from the bow stop about two inches during retrieval and the whole trailer was flexing. Another 30 minutes and two large ratchet straps enabled us to slide the boat snugly up against the bow stop.
In Rich's driveway

A quick stop to get some diesel fuel, and Oriental was in the rear view mirror. A relatively uneventful 11 hours later, I dropped Rich off at his house and then Blues Image was back in the driveway.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thursday afternoon

Oriental Waterfront from the bridge.
The folks at Oriental Marina were very accommodating. We were slipped in the first berth off the seawall along Hodges Street directly across from The Bean coffee shop. This slip is very visible from the Oriental Harbor Cam on the Town Dock website. Every time I go to Oriental, I call someone I know, give them the URL,  and then stand in front of the Harbor Cam and wave. I know, I know- just like a little kid.
We got the boat tied up with no issues. The dockmaster even loaned us an extension cord so we could plug into the shore power. I have a 15 amp male connector installed in the cockpit. It is rare you can find a marina with 15 amp power, so I had purchased a 30 amp to 15 amp adaptor for this purpose. Unfortunately, I had only brought one 25 foot power cord, and we were always slipped nose in, which puts the inlet too far from the outlet.
Snug in our slip.
Soon after this, we carried the 170 over to the lawn in front of the Oriental Inn and folded it up for stowing. A little routine maintenance, and we headed for M&M Restaurant for dinner. We had considered going to the Steamer, but found out that had been converted to a sports bar after all the damage from Hurricane Irene. Water had risen to three feet over Hodges Street where we were now docked. The Bean, a long time landmark and hangout, was also closed and undergoing renovation due to damage. Dinner was good, and we walked around town for a while and then ambled over to the Tiki Bar for a nightcap. There were two older ladies and the bartender besides us. We purchased a couple of brews and sat there and discussed the week's events. The bartender and the other patrons went home and left us there. We closed down the bar in Oriental!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday



After a relatively restless night, we awoke before dawn on Thursday morning. The water was flat calm and the sky was beautiful with few clouds, the moon setting in the west, and the sun rising in the east. About sunrise, the motor yacht to the east of us raised anchor and ghosted down the river channel. Most likely a snowbird heading south.
Forespar Stove under way.
We witnessed literally dozens of yachts heading south along the ICW during the trip. We could see four or five at a time trailing each other by a couple of miles. It reminded me of being at the Atlanta-Hartsfield airport at night and seeing landing lights for as far as you could see on the jets lined up for landing stacked one behind the other.
Rich fired up the generator (yes, I said generator. You thought we were just a little dinky boat, didn't you?) to charge up his cell phone. Actually, that was the only time the entire trip we used the generator. Rich had brought it just in case we needed some power out on the hook.
I brewed some coffee on my new Forespar galley stove in the percolator. Forespar had fashioned this gimbaled stove after the old Sea Swing stove. I wish I had the Sea Swing, because unlike my Forespar, it utilized rolled aluminum plate for a gimbal and would reflect some the heat back toward the cooking area. The Forespar throws a lot of heat sideways and had a detrimental effect on my varnished companionway door.
Anyway, back to the story. The two sailboats left sometime later, and we followed one out the river channel. Once we reached the Neuse proper, we shut down the engine and raised the sails. There was barely a breath of wind at that hour. Rich went below and turned in for some continuing rest, and I sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the lovely view and quiet. A little breeze stirred from time to time and the boat would move a bit and then stop. I dug out the 170 genoa which I had never hoisted before. After about thirty minutes, a stronger  breeze began to materialize and we started to move.
The weather for Friday was forecast to get rough, with 25 to 30 knot winds and the waves on the Neuse predicted to be 3-4 feet. If you have ever been on the Neuse, and I now had two days experience, you know you don't want to be out in 3 foot waves. They are often referred to by people in the know as "square waves" as they are of such short duration that they generate a washboard effect with a constant pounding on the hull.
With this in mind, I steered west intending to stay in the general vicinity of Oriental as I knew the wind would pick up in the afternoon and it might get rough. We planned to get a slip at the Oriental Marina before conditions deteriorated too much.

Self portrait near Janiero.
Within an hour we were humming along at 6 knots with a southerly wind. Blues Image was heeled at about 12 to 15 degrees and it was just great. Being based on Watts Bar Lake in East Tennessee, it is rare that we can sail more than two or three miles on a tack, so this was thrilling for me. We sailed about three hours passing Oriental and continuing all the way down to Minnesott Beach in sight of the ferries running back and forth.
Rich stayed down below pretty much all this time. He had not slept much the entire trip and was trying to get some rest. The 1/2" plywood storage covers and filler panels under the bunk cushions would squeak mercilessly on their fiberglas ledges every time one of us would roll over or move. Rich had the V berth and I had the dinette berth. They both squeaked loudly with every move, and when you only have 2 inch thick cushions to sleep on, you tend to move a lot trying to find a comfortable position. So neither one of us was particularly well rested.
It was now early afternoon, and rather than dodge the ferries and continuing towards New Bern, I elected to turn around and head back to Oriental. The wind was picking up rapidly, and the 170 was now too much. I pulled it down and put up the working jib. It was no easy task, as the waves were getting up and the bow was bouncing around. By now you have guessed "we don't need no stinking roller furler!" Although at times it would be nice. However, to install one would cost one third what I paid for the boat! I am nothing if not cheap.
As we traveled back east, the wind and waves kept building. In about two hours we were outside Oriental Harbor, and we fired up the Honda and turned into the wind so I could drop the sails. I bought everything I needed to install lazy jacks, but didn't have time to make them up and installed them, so it is a little tougher in a blow. We had to run the engine at half throttle. The waves had already built to 3 feet, and were breaking over the bow when she nosed into the trough. Rich held us into the wind, and I fought with the dancing boat and the mainsail, trying not to fall into the water. The jib has a downhaul line which helps greatly, and the previous owner had laced nylon line from the lifelines to the toe rail which kept the jib from blowing overboard. I finally got the mainsail tied to the boom and we turned around and headed for the channel marker. It was getting scary rough quickly. We got into the channel, and I radioed ahead to arrange for a slip.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Neighboring yacht in South River anchorage
Yours truly at South River

My buddy Mike says I look menacing in this picture. Not true. I merely have not had my coffee yet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wednesday evening

We headed northwest out of the thunderstorm. As previously stated, we were pretty tired from the day's travel and getting up early. In checking the charts, it seemed that Broad Creek offered a couple of marinas and several good anchorages. At this point, a nice hot shower and a restaurant meal had great appeal, but alas, was not meant to be. I didn't cross check my lat/lon position against the chart because we assumed we were farther east than we were. Heading for the Broad Creek marker, we soon spotted a nun buoy in the distance. But when we got to it, we found that we had already passed the Broad Creek entrance. The buoy was hidden from us in the poor visibility of the thunderstorm as we passed it by. We were actually a couple of miles west of the entrance. We discussed turning around, but elected instead to turn straight south and head for South River. The North Carolina Coastal Cruising Guide listed South River as a good anchorage protected from southerly winds, which we were experiencing. And the everpresent thunderheads were building again out of the southwest. We were also running out of daylight, as it was about 6:30 pm by then. Running on Honda power we headed south on a 180 degree true heading and hit the South River markers right on the money. We traveled on up South River about a mile by which time it was very dark. Using the depth finder/GPS Humminbird 160, we dropped anchor right on the edge of the 7 foot contour, let out about 100 feet of rode, and dropped a 10 pound anchor kellet to hold the rode horizontal to the bottom. By this time, lightning was flashing almost continuously due south and the wind was building to 20 knots plus. We shared the anchorage with a large motor yacht and two other sailboats. We had gotten pretty close to land and this helped break the wind somewhat. We still had adequate swinging room should the wind shift as long as the anchor reset! We had a quick meal, set the boat up for sleeping and turned in. I woke up numerous times during the night to check for anchor dragging and to just look around. It seemed the Beaufort area was getting slammed with a big thunderstorm. Even though the wind probably was up to 30 knots at times and lightning was frequent, we did not get enough rain to get the boat wet. Most of the weather seemed to skate by us to the south, for which we were grateful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday

A little weather moving in...

Between showers
We got up about 5 on Wednesday morning so that we could make the drawbridge opening at 6:30. By going north out of Beaufort instead of south, we did not have to go around Radio Island to head back up to the Neuse. We arrived right at the Highway 70 drawbridge at 6:30 and sailed on through the open bridge. As soon as we cleared the bridge, we started looking for the next channel marker. As it was still dark, Rich brought up the Blue Max spotlight and flipped it on. Pretty soon after that, all of the lights and the GPS went out on the boat. The spotlight blew one of the two fuses at the battery that power the electrical panel. When I had rewired the boat, I had used 10 amp fuses because I was out of 20 amp and  I just forgot to change them. I was still steering the boat while Rich looked under the port settee for the fuse holders immediately near the battery. I put the boat in neutral and helped Rich find the spare fuses. There were no other boats around, so it seemed safe. After Rich located the spare fuses and changed the blown one, we had power restored. The GPS rebooted and shared with us the knowledge that we were in two feet of water. There was a little bit of light by this time and we had drifted over near two sign posts jutting up out of the water. It appeared the channel was way off to port. I asked Rich if he could read the signs as I could not. He replied "yes, Danger, Shoal!" As the boat shuddered to a stop it seemed the information was not received in a timely fashion. Ah, the joys of a swing keel boat! A few cranks on the keel winch and we were off and back in the channel.
Can you go any faster?
Stylish as usual
Another few hours of motoring through the ICW and we were back in the Neuse. The weather was still iffy with a lot of cloud cover, but we headed east towards the Sound. We got caught in two or three rain squalls and spent our time putting our rain gear off and on. We sailed several hours until we were past the outer markers for the Neuse and we were in the sound proper. We could see what appeared to be a wicked thunderstorm coming up behind us traveling northeast. We turned south east to try to get some distance from it. As the wind wasn't friendly for that direction, we fired up the Honda. Unfortunately, we were closing on a prohibited area which is used for gunnery and bombing practice for the armed forces. The farther south we got, the closer we were closing on the bombing range! We could actually hear what we assumed to be 20 millimeter cannon fire in the distance along with jet fighters passing near by. "What are the targets they are shooting at?" Rich wondered. "Probably old sailboats." I replied. As we had run right up against the markers proclaiming "Keep Out!" we had no choice but turn back north into the storm. We weren't really concerned about the rain and there wasn't much wind. It was just the lightning that had us worried. We plowed ahead into the storm. Rain came down in sheets and the visibility dropped to 50 yards. Aside from the lighting, it really wasn't too bad. We were through it in a half hour and the sun came back out. We had been on the move since 5 and we were getting pretty tired, so we started looking for a place to anchor.