Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Topsail Island Marina at Surf City, NC - at a dock

The Surf City Pier is fully operational
We had a 52 mile day to reach Surf City so we had to leave around 7:30 am, not a favorite time for Ann. We used the "backdoor exit" from Homer Smith which resulted in a least seen of 5.4 MLW.  We had a one foot tide, so it was not a problem for our 4 ft 9 in keel.

The IGA Supermarket is up and running
Once underway we found that no one was working today on the Atlantic Beach Bridge. There was a notice to mariners that a 30 minute advance notice was required before passing through the bridge but that was only when they are actually doing work and that wasn't today.

He was very popular with the local seagulls!
The shallowest part of the trip was just after the Atlantic Beach Bridge between R6 and G11. It got really skinny, down to 5.7 MLW! I searched and found the most water possible which is reflected in the track I uploaded today. It also shows a path through Browns Inlet and New River plus a few other shallow spots.

BoatUS was roaring but the boat was not moving! Watch out for those shallows!
Surf City is still recovering from hurricane Florence but a lot of stores are open as is the marina. You'll still find the local IGA supermarket open and serving local customers. The Surf City Pier is open as are most of the local businesses. At this marina, there is no one present. You pay over the phone for your slip. We paid $1.50/ft for our dockage which includes electric and water if needed.

Our plan is to pick up a mooring at Carolina Beach and then move on to St James Plantation the next day if the weather is right which means not having wind against tide on Cape Fear river.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Homer Smith at Beaufort, NC - Last day

The downtown Beaufort marina - empty!
We got all our work done: provisioned, did a wash, refilled the water tank, filled up the outboard tank with non-ethanol gasoline, walked into town - time for a rest. Beaufort looks the same as always. Once again, reacting to the news, I expected a lot more damage. It was hard to see any. There was some debris piled in spots along the sidewalk but not that much. Most of the houses showed no damage at all, a few showed a shingle or two missing.

There was an announcement of the Atlantic Beach Bridge shown above required a 30-minute notice
before passing through due to construction. Nobody yet has seen any signs of a work barge blocking traffic. 
The docks at Homer Smith had no damage at all. So I walked down to docks in town to see how they did. It was the same story, they looked fine except that there were very few boats on the docks. They were 90% empty. All of the stores were open for business except one or two.

New docks shown at the far right will
be added to Homer Smith in a couple of week.
Back at the boat, I prepared the route for Tuesday. I integrated all the USACE routes into my overall route and I'll be recording my track as usual. Somebody said it may become the "new" magenta line. All of my tracks can be downloaded at bobicm.com

Our plan Tuesday is to leave around 7:30 or so and make it to Topsail Island Marina in Surf City, a distance of 52 miles. Then we'll pick up a mooring at South Carolina Beach followed by a stop at St James Plantation on Thursday. It's time to start moving south in earnest.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Homer Smith in Beaufort, NC - at a dock

Bock Marine is up and running
The winds were supposed to be less than 8 kts out of the northeast by they were actually 15 kts out of the east. It seems that you can always just double the wind prediction for the Neuse and Albemarle. The predictions are never right, they always seem to under estimate the wind. This statement includes PreidictWind, NOAA, PocketGrib, Windy, etc.

Some houses were damaged, most were not
Fortunately for us, the wind was behind us once we turned the corner to head down the Neuse. It was very rocky before that. One thing you never want to do is to go against a 15 kt or higher winds on the Neuse. It's shallow and the waves tend to be very short period and build up nicely.

We didn't see any debris except for one lone piece just north of Adams Creek. The creek itself was completely free of debris. I was surprised at the lack of damage by Florence. I had expected to see many houses badly damaged or destroyed, not so. The houses showing damage were in the minority. I would bet that a TV crew would focus on the damaged houses as opposed to giving a balanced overview of the effects of hurricane Florence.

Always a sunset
Here we will do doing a wash and pay a visit to the nearest supermarket to provision for the rest of the trip to Titusville. We are out of everything fresh. The marina here has a free courtesy car which we'll take advantage of on Monday. The next day we'll see how ground zero fared as we head down the ICW.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

RE Mayo - at their dock

This was RE Mayo during hurricane Florence - not a good hurricane hole
After a quiet night's sleep, we got up at our leisure and weighed anchor around 8:30. It was a beautiful day but the wind started to pipe up more than what was predicted (what else is new?) Nevertheless, it was out of a good direction for going south so it wasn't so bad. We put up the sail and bounced along with the northwest winds.

In getting down the dock, you had to avoid a few obstacles! 
Our planned stop for the night was at RE Mayo to have dinner with friends of many years who live in the area. The usual dock there was taken up by another huge shrimp boat so we docked farther down. Our 75 ft electrical cord barely reached the outlet. 

And also avoid a few missing planks
The attraction of RE Mayo is not the low price dockage ($0.40/ft) or the free electricity. It's the seafood. We were able to pick up 1.5 lbs of fresh shrimp (never frozen) for $8.00. They still had the heads on but I got them ready for Ann later that day. Ann also bought frozen scallops and a couple of small flounders. There was a lot more available but it was enough for us. They even had alligator meat available. 

The path to land is not obvious
The docks are in poor shape with some planks missing. This is not a marina, it's just a working facedock for shrimp boats. As I said, we stop for the seafood.

 But it was all worth it for the shrimp!
On Sunday we're headed for Homer Smith in Beauford, NC. We need to provision and do a wash. Home Smith has a free courtesy car and free laundry facilities plus excellent WiFi. We will stay one or two days before moving on. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Pungo Anchorage - what a night!

The Coast Guard was busy removing debris and logs from the Alligator - Pungo Canal
The wind howled like a banshee! The night was dark, the boat shook from side to side, the wind made a roaring sound (hard to describe), at times the boat would lead over from the force of the wind on the mast. We would get sustained gusts in the 40's. The wind peaked at 48 kts in one gust which pushes four times as much as a 25 kt wind. The boat responded to the pressure by heeling over. I had 12 lines securing the boat to the dock via the pilings, no cleats although I would not have trusted them anyway.

This is the famous Wilkerson Bridge with a low height for an ICW bridge which are supposed to all be 65 ft.
A quiz, what's the height? Do you read the middle of the number, the bottom? We really do not know.
The wind started out off the port side and gradually clocked around to the aft. I had added an aft line just for that eventuality and it did its job. The most amazing thing is being in a boat, even at a dock, and listening to that wind! I cannot imagine what the residents of Panama City heard when Michael came ashore with 155 mph winds! I wouldn't want to be in anything greater than 50 kts.

It's not that we were unsafe. The boat was secure, the pilings were well made, there was no wave action so we were relatively calm compared to someone anchored out in higher winds. Nevertheless, it was some experience. The combination of roaring winds and nighttime in a rocking boat is hard to describe. The winds suddenly calmed around 2:00 am confounding predictions of higher winds.

We were rewarded with a nice sunset at our anchorage tonight
There was no damage to the boat, it rode out the storm fine, it was the occupants that needed to recover. So we left Friday morning to reach the Alligator Swing Bridge before they started working on it again with the attendant delays in openings. We got through without delay and headed south. The winds freshened up again to 20 kts was they were out of the north, directly behind us, no problem.

We reached the Pungo anchorage and collapsed. Time to rest and get a good night's sleep. I was up every few hours last night.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Alligator River Marina - Michael passes to the west of us

The blue fender is the inflatable one, 12 inches in diameter and 5 ft long
It was a dark and stormy night... So goes the start of one of Snoopy's novels. It's the same here but we hope for a good ending the next day. It's blowing like stink outside with the highest gust so far at 48.2 kts. The wind is still out of the south so we are being pushed off the dock which is good for us. I put out a few lines, then some more and then some more again. I ask myself, are the lines better in the locker or attached to the boat and land? I always wind up with the same answer so out I go to attach just one more line...

New this year is an inflatable fender I first saw in Titusville that a neighbor had. They can be rolled up and stored without taking up much room and can be absolutely essential in a storm. The one I bought was 12 inches in diameter and 5 feet long. It was the heavy duty version. If you're cruising the ICW, get one of these fenders! The other ones I have look flimsy by comparison. Practical Sailor rated them number 1. Don't think about it, buy one.

Here's the video
It's going to be a long night. I think we're secure and with the wind predicted to clock around from the south to the west and then out of the north, it's the best direction we can have. We are only exposed to a small area to the east. There are two long jetties leading into the marina and not much gets in from the river. I'll monitor the wind change tonight but we ought to be okay.

Our next stop is RE Mayo but we don't know yet our day of arrival. It could be Saturday or Sunday, depending upon the weather. The winds are due to abate by noon Friday but that may be too late to leave Alligator River, we'll see.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Alligator River Marina - waiting for Michael

You know you're in the south when you see a line up like this and the cars are all white! (cooler)
They are still working on the Alligator River Bridge so there's one lane traffic for the cars. 
It was another hot day with a high of 89 here. We are still in Alligator River Marina waiting for the remnants of hurricane Michael to arrive. We are secure, tied to a facedock with winds out of the south that will push us off the dock. Two more boats came in today to weather the coming storm. South Carolina closed most of its swing bridges today in expectation of high winds. They don't open in high winds anyway and the winds from Michael are expected to be in that range.

A tranquil eventing, for now
So here we sit. It's been a slow trip south so far. We lost five days at Atlantic City and now four days here. On top of that, we started late anyway due to Florence. We'll see what happens with the 5 to 6 additional inches of rain expected and the water levels at our "favorite" bridge in Socastee. Maybe they will have to close again due to high water.

I finished installing the charger/inverter. The major task today was running wires from the remote control panel to the main unit in the cockpit starboard locker. It only took five hours. I would go broke as a repairman. No one would pay me $500 to run one wire. If you ask how it could possibly take that long to run one wire, well you're invited to join me the next time I pull wires on Fleetwing.

Here it comes, headed right for us!
The winds and rain are due to start tonight around 1:00 am. No doubt, we'll hear it when it starts, at least Ann will.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Alligator River Marina - at a dock

All by ourselves there in Alligator River Marina
Michael is on the way. It will hit our area on Thursday with high winds and 5 or more inches of rain. With that prediction, we started looking for a place to weather the storm. The winds will be out of the south and then the north as what's left of Michael passes by. So we selected this marina since it is protected from those directions.

Along the way, I'm taking photos of the bridges
noted for not meeting the 65 ft
height requirement.
This one is of the Coinjock Bridge, it's okay
The ride over was a little more bouncy than predicted but tolerable. We put the sail out and it helped steady the boat. The trip from Coinjock was uneventful. We never saw anything less than 10 ft and my track can be downloaded at Bob423 Tracks. I plan on continuing to add to the list as I move south.

There are only three boats here tonight. I had expected more. The boat aft of us will also be staying through the storm so we'll have company. Wednesday sounds like a good time to put more waterproofing on the bimini. I use the only brand approved by Sunbrella since it's the exact same formulation used for the original waterproofing by Sunbrella.

We will be watching the weather reports in the morning but we will probably be staying for four days. Our move south has really been interrupted by hurricanes in the last two years.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Coinjock Marina - at a dock after a rib steak dinner

The 165 ft Jordan Bridge seem too thin and slender to stand so tall
It was a beautiful day for a ride past Norfolk. As usual, ships were lined up for repairs or refurbishment. I wondered at the time what the average age is of all the naval warships. I would bet that many date from WWII.

So many ships being refitted, every year I see the same number it seems
We made it through the gauntlet of bridges and locks without much of a wait until we reached the last bridge which we missed by 5 minutes. Oh well, you have to expect such things. We still reached Coinjock by 4 pm. Along the way, I followed my guide and didn't see anything under 10 feet with most depths in the 11 to 13 ft range. SonarChart from Navionics was also helpful in finding the deepest path.

As word spread of our plans for a steak dinner, more and more cruisers joined us
We all had a great time, nobody left hungry
Cruisers we met before also stopped in Coinjock and we all decided to enjoy the rib steak that the Coinjock restaurant is famous for. We were not disappointed and most of us had lunch in hand when we returned to our boats. The servings were very large.

Ann had enough left for her
famous steak sandwich lunch
All of us are paying close attention to the hurricane about to hit the Florida panhandle. It will come ashore and then be over land as it nears North Carolina. It should lose a lot of strength from being over land and turn into mostly a rain event. That's bad enough since the area has received so much rain already from hurricane Florence. The forecast is from a fast-moving storm so it shouldn't linger like Florence.  With that, we'll move on to Alligator River Marina and then decide if we have enough fair weather to reach RE Mayo or should be just still out the rain event at Alligator River. We will decide that on Tuesday night when we should have a better idea of what the new hurricane will do.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hampton - linverter/charger day

Note the short fingers, somewhat of a challenge with a cross current
While Ann did the laundry, I played electrician. The Downtown Hampton Public Piers has one washer and one dryer. Ann made full use of it this morning. I keep remembering the advice from our dock mate at Key West when he saw our laundry cart, "Why wash so much, just wear the same clothes every day." Well, that's Key West for you. We like clean clothes.

All I had to do was swap out the old Prosine 3.0 with the new Xantrex Freedom XC 2000.  The connections for AC and DC were already there, just unattach and reattach, simple. The first challenge was to mount the unit which sounds simple but it had to be positioned so the AC and DC connections could be reused without adding extensions. That required a side-ways mount, still okay but the heavy gauge DC cabling had to be twisted 180 degrees to fit the new lugs. That took a little doing and then came the AC connections. You used to have screw terminals but no more. Now it's quick snap terminals that took a while to fathom how to operate. The manual was a study in obfuscation. I eventually figured it out by trial and error.

Hoolie's evening walk. That's the space center in Hampton. Worthwhile if you haven't been. 
Once everything was attached, it was time to run the wire from the remote control panel to the main unit. I always thought that was going to be the longest part of the installation and I wasn't disappointed. Running wires on a boat is the bane of my existence. It is never simple, it is never quick and it involves unnatural physical positions that I was going to pay for Tuesday morning. After several hours, I managed to get within one foot of the unit but to no avail. The only access hole was jam-packed with thick cabling leading to the old inverter and the genset, no room for the smallest wire.

Okay, just drill another hole - but where. The back side of the wall was covered in wiring and it was 5:00 by then, time for wine! The good news is that the inverter/charger is working and we again have AC while underway off the batteries which are charging anyway from the alternator. Other than short bursts of using the microwave for reheating things for lunch, we mainly use it to power a 400-watt heater for defogging the windshield. We had a 200 watt 12V heater but that was not enough. Our 1500 watt heater was too much. The 400-watt unit keeps the windshield clear in the rain or fog.

Our goal Tuesday is to reach Coinjock and have their rib steak dinner. They have aged beef and we've always enjoyed the dinner. Looking ahead, we have to find a spot to sit out the expected Thursday heavy rains and wind. We would like to reach RE Mayo but that may be too far, we'll see.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hampton - at a dock, we provision

There is a free dock on the other side of the bridge north of Hampton Downtown Public Piers
The sign said the stays were limited to 72 hours. Unfortunately, the bridge is too low for us. 
Hampton is one of our prime provisioning stops. Walmart stores vary in value but the one at Hampton is one of the best. I was looking for fresh grapefruit and the ones on display didn't look the best. The product manager offered to see if they had more in back and within a minute or so, the new carton of grapefruit was taken out for display. They were much better than what was out in the bins.

The modern malls are now laid out like a small town. All this was constructed in an empty field
We hurried back to the boat and put everything away to prepare for Ann's shopping trip in the afternoon. One needs a periodic shopping fix and Hampton Peninsula Town Center is the new type of shopping mall. It's laid out like a miniature town with streets between all the store and there are lots of stores, more than any mall. It also offers residental living for those that like the lifestyle as an apartment or condo above a busy area.

The view from the parking garage. You can use the height to inspect your rigging or instruments on
the top of your mast like the VHF antenna (mine needs replacement)
Ann likes to visit the area since it has some of her favorite stores such as Chico, Talbots, and others. For me, I just spend the time in the Barns and Noble taking photos with my iPhone of books I want to order from Amazon for my Kindle.

Kim and Ted came by to visit, nice!
Kim and Ted came by to visit for our 5:00 wine hour. It's always fun to meet people along the way. They often know more about us than we know about them! We had a pleasant discussion on things of boating and our continued trip south, always a popular topic among cruisers.


We will be here one more day to allow time for me to install the new inverter/charger from Xantrex. I ought to be a swap with the Prosine 3.0 unit that expired. At least it sounds good and perhaps reality will meet expectation this time, we hope.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Hampton - at Downtown Hampton Public Piers marina

Sunrise at Fishing Bay Yacht Club
It was a quiet night and a beautiful morning with a great sunrise. Hoolie had his morning outing and pushed off. The entrance (and exit( from Jackson Creek is very narrow so I'm going to publish a GPX route for the passage. If you're off by 20 ft, it can subtract 1 to 2 ft from your depths. The narrow part is from the last turn to the creek. My track in follows the deepest path. I forgot to turn on my track this morning so my track leaving Jackson Creek doesn't show the exit path.

Sailboat rule here
We had 10 to 15 kts winds out of the north which were perfect for making good time to Hampton. We motor sailed the entire way and got in around 1:30. I have a project ahead of me to replace my non-functional Prosine 3.0 with a Xantrex Freedom XC 2000 inverter/charger. Hopefully, it will be a swap since all the wiring is already in place for the Prosine. What could go wrong?

Out for an evening sail
I lost my good discount on Enterprise car rentals. What used to cost me $30/day is not $60/day! To add insult to injury, they do not honor the $12.50/day weekend rate either. Nevertheless, we need transportation to a supermarket to provision and a few other things so we bit the bullet and rented the car.

We expect to be here through Sunday night as we get Fleetwing ready for the next leg of our trip. We have reservations at Coinjock Monday night and will have the famous rib dinner.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fishing Bay YC in Deltaville - at their dock

The smaller of two clubhouses at Fishing Bay YC
The stay at Solomons anchorage by the Holiday Inn was quiet as always. The Holiday Inn dock is still there for $2/night, very convenient. The winds were predicted to be less than 10 kts out of the south and for the most part, the forecast was true. We had 56 Nm to go so we hurried and got going around 8:00 and reached Deltaville by 3:30 pm. It was a smooth ride.

The view to Fishing Bay, several boats are anchored
The Fishing Bay Yacht Club is high class. They've replaced their fixed docks with floating docks using ipe wood, the top of the line choice. The yacht club here has multiple clubhouses, one on the south side facing Fishing Bay and one on the north side facing Jackson Creek, both are beautiful. It's easy to see that sailboats rule here.

Brand new docks, floating with ipe wood, top notch. Look at the height of the pilings!
We took advantage of their reciprocal offer with other recognized yacht clubs for a free dock for one night. You get a free floating dock that comes with electricity and water. We're using the electrical hook up for our air conditioning since it's in the mid 80's here tonight.

We are suckers for a good sunset
In addition to everything else, we are positioned for good sunset photos too! We will move on to Hampton on Friday and rent a car for provisioning for the next leg of our trip south, at least enough to last until Charleston.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Solomons - at anchor by Holiday Inn dinghy dock

You tend to pay attention to guys like this one bearing down on you!
It was a nice, calm ride today - just what we had waited for. We are due to have settled weather for the next four days or so and in that time, we plan on scooting south to Hampton. We hope to be there by Friday afternoon. I have a replacement inverter/charger waiting for me. My old ProSine 3.0 bit the dust after 15 years of faithful service. Now it's time for a younger generation, a Xantrex Freedom XC 2000. It also puts out a pure sinewave but only at 2000 watts and not the 3000 watts of the Prosine 3.0. It's enough for me.

A nice view with a glass of wine in one hand
The anchorage here by the Holiday Inn still has the $2/day dinghy dock which is the cheapest in the area. It's easy access for Hoolie and me and a short distance from the anchorage. If needed, there are several 7/11 type stores and a supermarket about a mile walk away. There's also a Westmarine for boating supplies. A decent restaurant is nearby serving BBQ.

We have a 56 mile trip on Thursday to reach the Fishing Bay Yacht Club where we'll take a courtesy dock for a night. Then it's on to Hampton on Friday and provisioning.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rhode River - a two sunset night

Sunset Number One
After being beaten up on Monday making way into 10 to 15 kts winds with higher gusts against the current, we decided to have a layover day. The winds are supposed to calm and we're expecting a smoother ride than what we would have had today.

The anchorage here at Rhode River couldn't be more peaceful. There's plenty of room for an armada but we're one of only three boats in the entire anchorage. With Hoolie's Island nearby, we set. My patch fix on the fuel leak is looking more like a permanent fix. Sometime down the line, I'll try installing the replacement parts. It's not the time to do such work when you're at an anchorage out of reach of local help if things were to go wrong.


Sunset Number 2, we watched in wonder
We are looking to leave early on Wednesday to reach Solomons at the anchorage by the Holiday Inn. We need a few essentials which are readily available at the nearby Food Lion. We are gradually getting down south.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rhode River - at anchor by Hoolie's Island

Hoolie's Island, note the sandy beach to the right
We had a 56 Nm run today from Chesapeake City to the Rhode River anchorage. The winds were light in the morning and the tide was with us more than I expected. Perhaps it was due to heavy rains up north. We saw very little debris until a patch by a shoal area that we passed to starboard. It seemed to be an eddy area that collected various logs and boards. Other than that area, the rest of the route was clear. We saw nothing in the bay as we approach the bridge by Annapolis and south of there.

The first of many sunsets we hope.
The winds were predicted to be light, in the 5 to 10 range but once again every app including the Coast Guard forecast was wrong. The winds piped up to 15 to 17 kts right on the nose. When the tide turned in the afternoon, that resulted in wind against the tide. Now we had short, chopped seas, not good. The wind on Tuesday is predicted to be 10 kts out of the south and we're a little leary of that. If it really was 10 kts, that's okay even against the tide. However, 15 kts against the tide is definitely no good!

So we decided to wait out Tuesday at anchor in Rhode River. Wednesday has forecast winds out of the west, a much better direction - provided the forecast doesn't change. Then it looks good for making Hampton, VA by Friday afternoon.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Chesapeake City - at anchor

One of the many bridges along the C&D Canal
We left Utsch's marina in the dark at 5:45 am. We wanted to be sure to have clearance under the Cape May bridges and we did. I used my tried and true formula of both bridges having 58 feet of clearance at low tide and then just subtracted whatever the tide was at the time of passage to get the final clearance. In addition to the tide tables, you also have to figure in the actual water level vs the predicted tide. In order words, the water level may be higher than what's predicted by the tide tables. That's usually due to a strong east wind, especially if it's blown for several days. For example, if you pass under the bridges with a 1 ft tide and at the same time, the water level is 1 ft higher than normal, then you have to subtract 2 ft from the 58 ft of clearance at a normal low tide for a total clearance of 56 ft. Since my mast is only 55 ft 3 in high off the water, I can pass under with the above conditions. For more detail, see Water Levels in my blog.

16 boats in the anchorage, so far
Once out in the bay, we were ahead of the change in tides. The current was still flowing out of the bay, and ebb tide. We had to buck current until the flood tide caught up with us. The best strategy for doing that is to stay over to the side of the bay, nowhere near the main channel. The tide always changes first along the edges of a river and that's where you want to be when the tide is changing slowing in your favor. The sailboats following the main channel will see the foul tide the longest and strongest. At first, we were seeing 0.7 kts of foul tide when there was 1.5 kts in the main channel. That can mount up over the course of a 63-mile run. Eventually, the current reversal catches up even in the main channel and it doesn't make any difference after that. We started out at 5:45 am and dropped anchor in Chesapeake City at 2:15 pm. We average 7.3 kt through the water but the tide helped us a lot at the end.

It was a nice day and a nice sunset
The weather looks very settled over the next week and we intend taking full advantage of that to head south as fast as we can. We have a dock reserved at Downtown Hampton Public Piers for three days where we will provision for the rest of the trip and assess the situation down south by the Socastee Swing Bridge which is presently still closed due to high water - but it's dropping now.

Our next destination is Rhode River for Monday.