Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alligator River Marina – At a dock

There were a long line of boats going north
I’ve had a terrible time getting an internet connection the last few days. I’ve had phone service but no data service and therefore no internet. But we’re now at the Alligator River Marina and they have WiFi which I’m using now. The weather has turned clear and cooler but with highs still in the 70’s. Today was a motoring day and we’re starting to see more boats now, more of what I expected when I first came south on the ICW. In talking to the marina personnel here, they said the marina business was off 50% from years past.

One very long dock and a few slips to the left
There were no insects of any kind last night but as the wind died this morning, the mosquitoes came out which I had to drive away by opening everything up in the cockpit and shooing them out. We were also concerned about “fuzzy bills” but they didn’t show up, much to our relief. We encountered them along the Alligator River on the way down in the fall and found the boat covered with green goo in the morning. It took me 5 hours to clean the boat that time.

We left with the intention of joining up with the Bunches and their yacht club flotilla sail to the Chesapeake but it appears we are a day ahead of the group. Furthermore, we can’t communicate with any of them since we’re all in a phone dead zone. Cellphone service is not 100% coverage, no matter what the ads say.

Getting into this marina was an experience in shallow water. The entrance has shoaled up to 4.8 ft! That’s just about what we need so we squeaked through. Shallow water no longer has the fear factor it had in the fall. The boat ahead of us drew 6 ft and they could not make it. They turned around and headed up the river. It’s quiet now and we’ll head for Elizabeth City on Sunday. I wonder where Don and Liz Bunch are??

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pungo River – At anchor

A beach for Hoolie
All the clouds went away, the sun shone, the winds were not as gusty but still in the teens – it was a beautiful day with temps in the 70’s! With that we headed north again with the destination being the Pungo River anchorage just before the Alligator River canal. We sailed across the Pamlico River but had to turn on the iron genny when we entered the Pungo River since the wind was on the nose in that direction.

Sunset after the storms

We did sail some more when we turned the corner but the wind died and we motored the rest of the way into the anchorage. Looking around, there are a total of 14 boats in the anchorage but there could be upwards of a hundred and it still wouldn’t be crowded. The attraction for us is the sandy beach nearby for Hoolie relief. It’s only short hop to the beach, very convenient.

Don and Liz Bunch also left today on their cruise but they got a late start and are behind us somewhere. I’m sure we’ll get a call from them later on. On Saturday we’re aiming for the Alligator River Marina by the bridge since it’s the only place nearby \where we can take the dog ashore. The anchorages don’t have shore access so it’s a marina for us on Saturday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

At the Zeisings – More genset tests

Front porch friend
This was going to be the day I fixed the genset – ha! It seemed simple enough, just decrease the rpm a little and that would also decrease the voltage and allow the inverter/charger to come on-line to service the rest of the 120 circuit. Well, adjusting the governor is no simple matter on the Panda diesel. The injectors have to be removed to get at the governor and then the weights have to be carefully balanced with a special tool made for the job. With that build up, I thought I’d wait for service at a Panda dealer further down the line.

Ann’s allergies seem to be getting worse. On our way north, we now plan on stopping in Hampton, VA and seeing if we can meet with an allergist to help Ann on the trip home. She’s never had allergies like this before and it’s very discouraging to her. It’s been a wonderful trip except for the allergies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

At the Zeisings – We visit New Bern

The saga of the genset continues. After more calls to Panda technical support, it now appears that the genset is rev’ing too high at start up. The focus has now switched to the rpm speed governor. There’s an adjustment screw on the front of the engine, according to technical support, that may have come loose and allowed the governor to change its factory setting. So that’s the first thing to check Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, we spent the afternoon in New Bern. It’s a fun place to visit and it has an excellent restaurant which was also the birthplace of Pepsi, the place where the original drink was first formulated. They also have adopted bears as the symbol of the town and you can see them on every street corner. People can submit a design for approval that can then be mounted on the sidewalk. Many of the towns in this area have adopted a mascot. Washington, NC has a crab, decorated in every conceivable color format.

After New Bern it was off to Harris Tetter for groceries and then back to the boat. We finally got some rain, our first for several weeks so we can’t complain. We have one more day here before we head north again on Thursday morning.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

At the Zeisings – Exercising Hoolie

Hoolie's a blur of speed as he chases golf balls
When I started the Panda genset this morning to charge the batteries, the charger wouldn’t initialize. That means I had no AC power to the boat. At first I suspected the genset but when I checked its output, the AC line was live. After technical support calls to both Panda and Prosine (the charger/inverter) we finally determined that the problem was in genset since I could get the Prosine to work after turning on the airconditioning. Evidently, the air conditioner loaded the output of the genset enough to pull down the voltage into the acceptable range for initialization of the Prosine. In other words, the genset’s voltage was too high at start up for the Prosine to accept,.

Nice house in the woods on the ICW - great porch

So what to do? I could work around the problem by starting the air-conditioner each time I started the genset (and then turning off the air-conditioner after the water heater and charger are off and running). So it must be something in the voltage control box in the genset which Panda treats as a “black box”, meaning there’s no repair protocol – we’ll send you a new one (for a price). It’s probably just a sticky relay. I’ll fool around with it tomorrow some more but I’ll probably wind up getting a new control unit. Things are never dull on a boat.

Well, after all that fun, we enjoyed the warm, sunny day by playing bridge on the back porch overlooking the boats sailing by on the ICW.

Monday, April 25, 2011

At the Zeisings – At anchor

That's us, the white dot in the middle
For the first time since Vero Beach, Ann was able to sleep through the night without an allergy attack. Pine trees have replaced live oaks as the predominate tree in this area and pine pollen doesn’t have the same allergy effect as live oak pollen. We didn’t have far to go so we took our time and enjoyed breakfast on the water. Meanwhile, Hoolie was waiting at the top of the companionway stairs for his morning trip out with a long suffering look.

"Will you guys hurry up!" (I've got to go...)
Arriving at the Zeisings, we carefully inched our way into shallow water to about 6 feet this time. That still gave us over a foot of safety margin with our just under 5 foot draft. According to the charts, we should be in 4 ft water but it’s deeper than the soundings on the chart. We sat out on the Zeisings’ porch and watched the ICW traffic and played bridge followed by an excellent dinner prepared by Pat. Just a great day!

(This location is the only place I can't get an internet connection on the boat - so I have to do the blog in the morning with the Zeisings' computer)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Broad Creek in NC – At anchor

Yikes! Solid fishing boats ahead!
Today the wind was out of the south so it was at our backs all the way. We had intended to only go to Cedar Creek but the weather was so nice and the wind was so great at our backs, that we just slid along further and wound up at Broad Creek, about 15 miles further. We even put up the jib today for part of the trip!

A working ICW along here
This section of the ICW is definitely loaded with barge traffic and we passed several today. As a consequence, it’s very well maintained with depths of at least 15 ft MLW all long its length. Being a Saturday, it was very crowded with fishing boats and they like to position themselves right in the middle of the ICW with the belief, I suppose, that the fish will take the deeper, dredged route inland. That makes for some interesting give and take between ICW cruisers and the fishermen. We sort of stare (glare?) at each other since I passed pretty close to many of them to avoid going out of the channel.

We’re in Broad Creek in North Carolina tonight and it’s a pretty anchorage. We now appear to be surrounded by pine trees with no live oaks in sight! We are hoping that we’re out of the live oaks and Ann’s allergies will subside. She’s trying an experiment tonight where she’s not going to take any medicine at all and see if her allergy was in fact due to just the live oaks - wish us luck.

Hoolie's typical position while traveling
Sunday we travel to Bill and Pat Zeising’s house on the ICW. We scouted out an anchorage there that’s further off the ICW than any in the guide books and we’ll spend a few days resting from our strenuous vacation…..

Friday, April 22, 2011

Swansboro – At a dock

It's an empty marina, we're ahead of the season
The wind blew like stink last night with gusts in the high 20’s and it was still blowing when we set out in the morning. In fact, it blew all day long in the 20’s, peaking out at 31 kts – right on the nose naturally. At least there were no big waves since we stayed in the ICW. The coast guard issued warnings about trying to use the inlets since the wind was directly out of the easrt and good sized waves were breaking over the inlet bars.

Coming into Swansboro the winds were in the mid 20’s and we needed fuel. We’ve found that you can’t use fenders with a fixed dock that has piers protruding out from the dock itself. The first thing the boat encounters is the vertical piers and if you have fenders out, they will be wedged between the pier and the boat. And as the boat goes forward, the fender stays behind, trapped by the pier – with dire consequences to anything the fender is attached to (like the lifelines). Having learned that lesson, we now go into such a dock with no fenders and then after the first bump (with the boat stopped) put out fenders selectively. Thankfully, all the piers we’ve encountered have been the wooden type and they seem to do no damage to our fiberglass hull. They have been rubbed smooth by previous encounters with boats.

Some mansions leave a lot to be desired in color selection
After filling up, we had intended to anchor out for the night but with the wind still blowing in the 20’s and the promise of more rain, we chickened out and just took a dock for the night. That decision absolutely guaranteed that the weather would clear, the wind would stop and the clouds would part – all of which happened, it is a law of nature. Oh well, we’re secure for the night and heading north again on Saturday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beach House Marina at Surf City, NC – at a dock

Enjoying the ocean view
We had 50 miles to travel today so we got an early start, around 7:45 am to take advantage of the incoming tide. We had to go up quite a ways on the Cape Fear river where the outgoing tide can run to 4.5 kts! That takes quite a chunk out of our 7.3 kt cruising speed. As luck would have it, our departure time from the marina coincided with the start of the incoming tide so we rode the tide up the river at 10.0 kts! That was the good part of the trip. For the rest of the way we had a foul tide and had three bridges to pass, two of which only opened on the top of the hour! North Carolina is not as accommodating to boaters as Florida or even Georgia or South Carolina. We went through 16 bridges on one section in Florida with less waiting time than the three bridges today!

Nice place for dinner
However, we finally made it to the Beach House Marina which is nothing much but is a place to dock a boat. Location is everything since it’s at just the right distance between stopovers for us. It’s a short walk to the ocean which we haven’t seen since Ft Lauderdale. The wind was whipping in from the east so the waves were building and several surfers were visible trying out the waves.

For dinner we tried out Daddy Macs right on the ocean. It’s very nice inside and the food was good. The surrounding area is typical of any beach with stores selling flip-flops, beach towels, surf boards, fins, etc. For us it was back to the boat. We were up at 6:00 am so it’s early to bed tonight. From here north it’s all anchorages, at least for the next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

St James Marina – At a dock

Everybody was paddling furiously!
  The boat was covered with live oak seeds in the morning so in view of Ann’s allergies, I hosed down the topsides before taking off. Passing through the bridge by Barefoot Landing, we radioed ahead to see if any barges (or boats) were headed in our direction. Receiving no reply, we headed north through the rock pile. It is, in fact, very narrow but if you stay in the middle you’ll have 12 ft MLW at least. There’s just no room to pass a barge and very little room to pass another boat – if you do it at all. One post on the internet said that if you do meet a barge you had better be very good at backing up – and at high speed to stay ahead of a barge.

Protected on all sides!
At any rate, we met no one and transited without a problem. The traditional trouble spots of shallow water have all been dredged so the way north was without the white knuckles of past visits.We passed several crews paddling in a “war canoe” type boat. A couple were racing each other, they sure employed a bunch of kids! I wonder if the war canoe type boat will be an Olympic event?

We’re staying at the St. James Marina which is actually a resort condo complex that accepts transients for overnight stays. It has meticulously manicured grounds and the dockage area is protected 360 degrees from wind and waves. It would qualify as a hurricane hole if the need arose.

Thursday we continue our route north and will probably stay at the Beach House Marina in Surf City, NC.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Barefoot Landing Marina – What you don’t want to meet in the Rock Pile

This is only the front of the barge coming out of the "rock pile"
Ahead of us is a stretch of the ICW that’s been dug out of a very rocky section. The going was so rough that they only cleared just enough width for two boats to barely pass each other and no room at all if a barge is coming down this stretch. The rocks excavated for the canal are piled up along the sides (hence the name, "rock pile"). If you wander off the center line of the canal, you run a very real risk of hitting a partially submerged rock, which has happened to many boats. Before entering the rock pile section, you call ahead on VHF channel 16 and ask if there’s any barges or large boats coming down in the opposite direction. If there are, you wait, otherwise you go ahead.

Here's a photo of the entire barge!!
Well this morning as we were having our breakfast, we saw the longest barge I’ve ever seen pass by! It was easily over ¼ of a mile long, maybe longer. There was a tug pulling in front and a second tug about ¾ of the way back to help the back part around turns. I can’t imagine meeting this tow in the rock pile! When we start out on Wednesday morning, we’ll certainly call ahead on channel 16 to see if anything is coming. For more information on the "rock pile" section, see the link. Look about 1/2 down the page for the information.

They liked the sun
We wandered around the shops again today and found and excellent Izod outlet. The prices were the best I’ve seen and the merchandise was first quality, no seconds. I got three pairs of Izod Bermuda shorts and three Izod golf knit shirts for a total of $60. The rest of the shops were very trendy but interesting to browse through. The stores are around a large pond with turtles and other wildlife. There are supposed to be alligators in the pond too but we’ve haven’t seen any yet.

Off through the rock pile tomorrow!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Barefoot Landing Marina – At a dock

What kid wouldn't enjoy this?!
Leaving Georgetown, we headed north and had the current with us for a change and we kept it all the way to Barefoot Landing. There was always plenty of water but we did run into a street stump along the way. It was floating right in the middle of the ICW, probably from debris from the recent heavy rains. We alerted the boats behind us so there was no damage there. We seemed to be okay, no vibrations so we soldiered on. We did see one alligator swiming along the ICW with kids in the water nearby with adults looking on shore. I don't think I would let any of my kids swim in the ICW down here.

Shops galore
Barefoot Landing Marina is just one long dock, over 1000 feet long. The attraction of the place is the super, outdoor shopping center located right off the docks. There are dozens of restaurants and even more shops to browse. It’s close to Myrtle Beach and attracts that crowd too. We decided to stay another day to explore the shops. Somehow we missed this stop on the way down in the fall. It reminds you of a grownup playground with enough things to also keep the interest of the kids (see photo). There are theaters here too featuring the band Alabama and an IMAX.

Eventually we’ll start north again but fun comes first!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Boat Shed Marina in Georgetown – At a dock

Duck on dock - one of several in the area
The water north of Charleston is rather thin so we only intended to travel when the tide was high. However, when we reached our anchorage at Awendaw Creek, it was only 11:30 so we decided to press on. To provide more excitement, the shallowest part of the trip would now be during a drain tide (when the low tide is below the average low for the year), 1.0 ft below datum. As it turned out, we had plenty of depth, even with the drain tide and even with all the warnings on the internet about shallow water for the area.

Once again we had a foul tide all the way north, about 2.0 to 2.5 kts of current against us all the way! It makes for a long day when you’re doing 5 kts instead of your usual 7.3 kts! But, what to do? You just have to press on.

Nice dog walk area
Reaching Georgetown, we pulled into The Boat Shed Marina. It’s focused on small fishing boats but they have a large gas dock that will accommodate sailboats. There are two of us here tonight. We didn’t have a chance to explore Georgetown, maybe next year. It did look interesting but on a Sunday night, nothing is open. We’ll move again on Monday, onward north!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Charleston Maritime Center – High winds to 39 kts!

Need a spice - we got spices!
The front that has been wreaking such havoc across the nation as it plowed east came through Charleston today. The prediction for high winds steadily increased throughout the day and reached beyond what was safe for all the sailboat racers during race week. I talked with the crew of the sled I photographed yesterday and they were very dejected after learning that all races today were cancelled due to predicted high winds. Usually in situations like this, the predicted high winds don’t materialize but not in this case. It blew between 20 and 30 kts all day long with the highest gust saw on the dock at 39 kts! One has to remember that as the speed of the wind doubles, the force quadruples! As strong as a 20 kt wind is, a 40 kt wind has four times more force. We were tied off at the dock with the wind coming onto the aft of the boat and later onto the port aft at a 45 degree angle so our cross-section was larger than usual and we rocked. The marina is not very well protected from waves and they rolled into the marina causing all boats to be tossed to and fro. At 7:00 pm it has finally settled down. It’s surprising how calm a 20 kts wind can feel after experiencing mid 30 kt winds all day long. The present 12 kt wind is nothing. All the thunderstorms went north of us and several came with tornado warnings but we were fine.

We saw this number causually parked by a condo
When we saw the storms were going to miss us, we headed into town to see the City Market vendors that have stalls in the middle of town in an old factory building. We toured the area and Ann bought a couple of charms for her bracelet. You could buy spices of all types, a wide range of jewelry, many woven baskets, tie-dyed T-shirts and the list goes on. It’s always fun.

I also met Jeff Siegel today who’s the creator of the Active Captain website which I’ve found to be the single, most useful resource in transiting the ICW. It has the usual reviews by members of marinas and anchorages but the most useful feature is the hazards listing – most often for shallow water on the ICW. What sets Active Captain apart from other resources is that the reviews (marinas, anchorages or hazards) are displayed on a NOAA chart so you can zero in on just the reviews you are interested in. Plus, the reviews are very current. It’s not unusual to refer an area you’re interested in and find that someone stayed there just a week before and recorded what they found. This is especially true of hazards – likely, someone passed through a few days before and reported on the depths they found.

Sunday is moving day, northward we go, this time to an anchorage.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Charleston Maritime Center – Mail arrives and a night out

100's of school kids gather for the morning outing - a beehive of activity!
One of the challenges for cruising is getting mail. We have ours forwarded automatically to my son in Connecticut. There’s no charge for the service and only first class mail is sent to the forwarding address. Then, we plan ahead to see where we’ll be for a few days and have a Priority Mailer packed with mail sent to the marina where we’ll be at. The Priority Mailer from USPS has no weight limitation, whatever you can pack into the envelope will accepted by the post office for delivery in 2 to 3 days, no later.

The cranes were awesome!
On the way back from the post office, I saw the unloading dock. Charleston is a major port with huge container ships coming through daily. The cranes are of another dimension entirely (see photo – look at the stairs going up!) Even so, they are looking at dredging the harbor even more with the opening of the new Panama Canal to accept even bigger ships with deeper drafts. Ports all up and down the east coast are looking to do the same, they’re in competition with each other it appears.

It’s race week at Charleston and one of the smaller racing boats has a dock at our marina. It’s a small sled type sailboat but in talking with the crew we learned that they topped out at 14 kts today! There was good wind to say the least but the boat literally skims over the water in high winds. Saturday should be even better with winds of 20 kts with gusts to 35 kts!

Imagine, 14 kts in such a small sailboat
If you come to Charleston, you must eat at least one meal at Hyman’s Seafood, it’s a Charleston institution. The food is good at very reasonable prices and even the wine is reasonable at $12.50 a bottle for chardonnay. It was a nice nigh for a walk through town. Saturday brings a weather change with rain and thunderstorms with high winds predicted. With that we decided to stay over another day and leave on Sunday when it’s predicted to be sunny.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Charleston at the Maritime Center – At a dock

Actually it's a scenic marina
We waited until 8:00 to take Hoolie into shore in hopes that the sun would have driven away the gnats – no such luck! They were thick, you could swim through them. Nevertheless, we got Hoolie ashore and back and then spent the next half-hour trying to coax them out of the cockpit as we got underway. We only had about 30 miles to go so we felt no sense of urgency in getting started but we hadn’t figured on such a foul tide. Even with our 7.3 kt cruising speed, we were only making 4.8 to 5 kts over ground against the current of an outgoing tide. So a four hour trip turned into a six hour endurance. To add to the excitement, we went through all the thin spots at a dead low tide and the tide was traveling north so as we neared Charleston, the low tide kept pace with us, keeping us on our toes.

"Outta of my way!"
Coming into the harbor we heard that this was race week at Charleston. The Coast Guard had posted exclusion zones to protect the race courses and one was between us and the our marina. We called the Coast Guard and was given permission to pass through but a powerboat that followed us (without asking permission) was stopped and made to go back and take the detour around, about six miles longer. Looking back, we saw a huge container ship come down the channel which was not off-limits but there were small sailboats crossing in front of it anyway. The ship gave the five horn blast signal to warn the sailboats to stay clear and then gave several more blasts for good measure. Apparently they all missed each other since we didn’t seen any rescue action later.

We’re at the Charleston Maritime Center, one of our favorite marinas. The bigger marinas are on the other side of town, many blocks from downtown. This marina is very small, no more than 20 slips at best so they go fast. We’ll stay here a few days since we like to explore Charleston and it’s convenient to a supermarket for provisioning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

-Steamboat Creek – At anchor

The octagonal house is a landmark for the anchorage (middle of photo)
We hadn’t intend to go this far but it was a sunny day, the water was flat and the tides were such that the mot difficult section of the ICW was coming upon us at high tide. With that we decided to push on and we wound up at the Steamboat Creek anchorage. It’s another anchorage tailor made for boats with a dog aboard since it has a public dock for dog relief – no trampling through the marshes.

Perfect for Hoolie relief
However, the gnats are upon us! They are truly out in force this time of the year. A white shirt will turn black with them after a few minutes and do they ever know how to bite! We retired down below shortly after being attacked en-mass when taking Hoolie ashore tonight.

Other than with the gnats, the anchorage is very peaceful and scenic. We’ll leave in the morning for Charleston for a couple of days before starting north again

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Skull Creek Marina – At a dock

The opening looks much bigger after passing thru
Starting out this morning the boat was buzzing with gnats again. They sound harmless, after all how could anything that small be a problem? Well, the problem is that they Bite (with a capital “B”)! We’re both covered with red welts, the remnants of “feeding time” at the zoo where we’re the main meal. We had to leave this morning so we were out casting off to go to the fuel dock for a pump out in the hoards. We opened everything up and let the winds blow and it took about four hours before we got rid of most of them.

Meanwhile the rains came as we followed the magenta line (the ICW recommended route as it appears on the chartplotter) which was lucky since the visibility was poor for seeing all the markers. We came to a bridge and asked for an opening and the operator said, “Keep on coming” (they always seem to say that, must be in the manual). As we got closer we could see the bridge starting to lift but then one side stopped and it swayed up and down. Humm, seems to be some sort of problem. Sure enough, the bridge operator came back on the VHF and said to stand off for now, he couldn’t raise the bridge – he was going to call for help.

Skull Creek Maina - No gnats!
So with the gnats, the rain, the thunderstorm – we were not happy campers as we marked time in front of a non-operating bridge (these things are usually not solved in an hour – where to anchor? Hours, days?). Looking back we noticed a tugboat coming with a barge and he got he same message. So I went to circle back behind the barge who then called the bridge operator again and said he could make it through with only one side of the bridge open. With that we volunteered to follow the barge. Now the bridge was not only open on one side, the side that was up was not straight up as is usual. The up side leaned over into the narrow channel I had to pass through. It didn’t bother the barge, he wasn’t that tall – but with a 55 ft mast, we were concerned. So Ann stood on the bow to get a better perspective as I idled towards the bridge aiming to miss the down span but get close enough to the center to miss the slanted up side. Slowly we went through, whew!

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we made it to Skull Creek Marina around 3:00pm. It was a joy to sit out in the cockpit and not be a feast for the gnats! In fact, we didn’t see any gnats at this marina – so far. Wednesday we plan on anchoring out and then arrive in Charleston Thursday afternoon for two days.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Isle of Hope – Jack and Kay Cothren visit for dinner

Jack and Kay Cothren - part of PYC South
The mechanic from Hinckley came over around 9:00 and looked at our new leak. He did a back trace up from the drip point and found a path from the oil cap. It appears that the O-ring seal of the oil cap has aged and may not be sealing as well as in the past, allowing oil to seep out and run down the side of the engine – not much but after awhile it accumulates enough to drip. He recommended replacement of the O-ring and to ensure the oil cap was securely tightened. This leak appeared to be different from the original leak from the rear oil seal on the engine. Finding that particular size O-ring was no easy matter. We had to find a hydrolytic supply house that carried every possible size O-ring to find the particular one required. It was about 20 miles away we eventually found it and replaced the O-ring. Hopefully that solves the problem.

Meanwhile, I did receive new capacitors from Panda and replaced the one that tested defective in the Panda. Lo and behold, starting the genset resulted in a full 120v! It’s satisfying to actually replace a component that tests defective and then actually have the system work! My experience in the past has been that there “one more thing” that needs to be done to get everything to work – but not in this case.

After changing the engine oil and repairing the Panda, Jack and Kay arrived and we sat down to cheese and wine made more pleasant by the temporary alleviation of the swarming gnats. After a few more glasses of wine, all problems became more easily solvable and we moved to he main cabin for Ann’s shrimp dish. It was all very nice. It’s great to meet friends along the way and share stories and experiences, just great fun.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Isle of Hope – Oglethorpe Mall and BBQ

The train went all over the mall - the kids had a ball!
We asked where the best BBQ was in Savannah and one of the dock hands recommended the BBQ stand just outside the Hope Depot on Victory Drive. We needed a new cutting board anyway so we headed out in that direction. We found the board but had trouble finding the BBQ stand. It’s truly a hole in the wall, about 5 ft square. We ordered two BBQ sandwiches for a total of $7 and had plenty and, most importantly, the BBQ was very good!

We looked for a good bookstore and found a Barns and Noble at the Oglethorpe Mall. It’s a huge complex with more than the average number of stores. They had the usual food court but also had a merry go round and a train ride that ran around the interior of the mall. The kids seemed to love it.

Returning to the boat we discovered a wind change and a cooler temperature. Both contributed to blowing away the gnats! We sat out in the cockpit for the first time in a week, may it continue. On Monday the Hinckley mechanic is due over to look at our reoccurring oil leak and I’m due to get the correct capacitors in the mail in the morning. We’ll see if everything happens as scheduled.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Isle of Hope – We explore Savannah

Our carriage
We tried to rest a car for the weekend. Enterprise has a deal where you can rent a car Saturday and Sunday for $9.95/day. However, they were all sold out by the time we tried to reserve a car. They said there was a run on rentals with the Masters going on. With that we dropped back to just using the courtesy car in two hour increments.

Downtown Savannah is only about 10 minutes away but finding a parking space is something else but we did eventually find one. The temperature reached 91 today with full sun and downtown was packed – and gnat free! Down in the marina we have to keep the screens up all the time now. Ann wanted to take a buggy ride and we found a two horse model. We learned that the horses they use work three months and then have a month off. They have their own IRA and are constantly monitored for health and temperature. They are trained to be as steady as a rock in the traffic noise and respond to voice commands by the driver. When coming to an intersection where the view is limited, the driver would say, “One step” and the horses would step forward only one step and then stop. If the way was clear, then the driver would give the command to go ahead. The most popular question asked of the driver is, “Where is Paula Deen’s restaurant?” Her influence is all over Savannah. Her products are in every shop and she has her own restaurant here.

Seemed larger in person
The river is navigable by ocean going liners and container ships just like the Hudson River although I think there are bigger ships in the Savannah river than in the Hudson. You can even rent a dock right downtown but the cost is very high and it’s a long ways from the ICW, not for us.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Isle of Hope Marina – The leak comes back

Typical house in Isle of Hope
Today I was going to change the engine oil but I found that the leak that had been repaired twice had come back. It’s not much of a leak but it shouldn’t be there at all. Since I’m in Savannah where the Hinckley service yard is located that did the first repair, I called them today and asked that their mechanic come over and look at the leak. The question is where is it coming from? Oil can run along paths that sometimes cannot be easily seen and appear to drip at a location that may have nothing to do with the leak source. The mechanic will be over Monday.

Meanwhile, the Panda genset stopped producing 120v even though the motor ran fine. Talking to Panda technical support, they said to check the electrolytic capacitors (they are big – about 8 inches tall, four of them), a failed capacitor could cause the problem. I patted myself on the back since I had ordered a spare parts kit for my genset before leaving NY which included spare capacitors. Upon taking the capacitor cover off on the genset I discovered that the capacitors I had were not correct! I had been sent the wrong capacitors from Panda! Calling Panda, they promised to send me new ones by Monday (hopefully)!

Path by the marina - not too long due to the live oak pollen
After that excitement, we reserved the free courtesy car and went Easter shopping for the kids. Great having courtesy cars! We returned to the boat and retired to the main cabin since we’ve given up on the cockpit due to the gnat invasion. They come out in the hundreds in the late afternoon and early morning – and they bite! We didn’t seen any on our trip down but they are really out now. We do have no-see’ums screening but not when we enter and exit the boat. Saturday we plan on exploring Savannah.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Isle of Hope – Fran and Claus Uhl visit along with Jack Cothren

Fran and Claus Uhl Visit Fleetwing
Fran and Claus came by the Isle of Hope Marina to pay us a visit and we all we out to lunch. Tubby’s Tank House is a local restaurant with a lot of character. They buy their fish directly from the local fishermen that go out everyday. They post a running list of catches by boat near the entrance to the restaurant. They advertise that they never keep fish more than one day before serving. Ann and I had the tuna sliders which are small tuna sandwiches cooked to order, nice. Everybody enjoyed their meal and I would recommend the place.

Returning to the boat, Jack Cothren dropped by for a visit while Fran and Claus were still with us. With that we convened a meeting of PYC south and covered many topics of how to solve all of PYC ills – but somehow I don’t remember what we said…

The famous Tubby's Tank Restaurant
Meanwhile I have to work on the genset Friday which decided to no longer produce 120v after starting. It runs fine, there’s just no 120v output. Calling Panda, they recommended I check the electrolytic capacitors. They are very large units, about 8 inches long. One defective capacitor out of the four installed could cause the problem. Luckily, I have spares on board and I’ll do the tests Friday. After that it’s on to the fun job of an oil change, oh boy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Isle of Hope Marina – Reprovisioning and boat cleaning day

We're told that the hanging moss does not harm the tree
The marina has two courtesy cars, both Hondas. We chose the Honda Odyssey, a minivan perfect for getting groceries. We found a nearby Publix and spent most of our allotted 2 hours for the courtesy car there. We can last a long time now between grocery stores.

Returning to the boat it was time for cleaning. I have to preface my cleaning by saying Fleetwing is now “sailboat clean”. It cannot compete with “powerboat clean”. It’s like comparing a duffer to a professional golfer. But then there’s one level beyond powerboat clean, it’s known at PYC as “Sharman clean”! It’s like comparing a professional golfer that shoots par or a little below to one that routinely sets a course record! Both are far beyond my abilities – but Fleetwing does look a little better, spiffy in fact for a sailboat!

Ann can walk among the like oaks for awhile
Since we’re at a dock, we’ve been running the air purifier at night and that definitely helps with Ann’s allergy for live oaks. This marina is surrounded by live oaks. They are beautiful to look at but deadly for allergies. Fran and Claus Uhl are due to visit us Thursday around noon, PYC south convenes again!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Isle of Hope Marina – At a dock for a week

Nice docks!!
We had gone to Kilkinney Marina since there was a line storm coming and didn’t want to wash Hoolie free of bank mud which he would have accumulated in his trips to shore. None of the nearby anchorages had ramp access, all were forage as best you could. Of course, Hoolie wouldn’t have minded but we weren’t keen on doing the cleaning. The dock at Kilkinney Marina was right out of Deliverance - but it worked for us, at least for one night but the storms turned out to be a non-event. We had some lightning and rain but nothing special.

The trip to Isle of Hope Marina was wild. The wind peaked at 39 kts!! The ride through Hell Gate was wild (the southern version on the ICW, not in NY). On the way down I wondered how it got its name but going north today with the wind topping 30 kts at a right angle to the direction of travel pushing us to shore with a very narrow channel, I could understand the name. The shore was close enough to spit at and the wind and waves were pushing us right at it with the depth sounder showing less and less water! I had no sail up but the boat was heeled over at bout 30 degrees, it was a memorable ride. It at times like this I wished I had a picture but we were otherwise occupied so please forgive me!

The Isle of Hope Marina is the opposite of Kilkinney Marina. The marina has recently been renovated with new concrete docks, the setting is calm and they have two courtesy cars (free of charge) to explore Savannah – and the rate is cheaper! We plan on staying for a week to let the weather warm up. We’ve learned that we’re ahead of the snowbirds coming back north – they are all waiting for summer on their way north, we should have done the same thing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kilkenny Marina – At a dock

They have one very long dock
 We had a lot of shallow water to traverse today so we started out at 7:00 am, just as the sun was rising. On the way down I can remember being very tense through this area from having to watch the depth and navigate at the same time. However, this time it wasn’t so bad, we both had gotten used to the shallow waters of the south and as long as we had 7 ft or so, it was okay. That would not have been our feeling in the fall.

As we left our anchorage this morning, we saw a trawler pull out right in front of us and then stop! This was at the famous Jekyll Island stretch of the ICW where many boats go aground during the year. He seemed to hesitate so I pull around to pass and he followed after me. In fact, for the next 71 miles, he was no further than 1/8 of a mile back all the way! I guess he figured that if I could make it with my draft of 5 feet through the trouble spots, then he could too.

7 ft tides!
We had intended to anchor out but the reports of a bad line storm due overnight eventually changed our mind, mainly due to concern in getting Hoolie ashore. There is only one marina on this part of the ICW and that’s the Kilkinney Marina. After 8 hours, we finally left the ICW and pulled into the Kilkenny creek – and that trawler than had been following us since 7:00 am also made the same turn! Good, we though, we’ll finally meet this guy since there’s only one marina on this creek. Shortly thereafter, we saw him slow down and stop and then turn around. He was so intent on letting us lead the way that he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going – he meant to keep on the ICW I guess since he backtracked and soldiered on, ending up I know not where.

The Kilkenny Marina is pretty basic. The docks have seen better days but they do have electricity on the docks at least and plenty of depth, 20 feet at low tide. We should be snug for any storms due through here, predicted between 5:00 am and 11:00 am on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jekyll Island – At anchor by the ICW

Typical 65 ft ICW bridge - at Jekyll Island
We had our usual Danish and donuts for our Sunday breakfast, you can’t skimp on tradition. We only had one bad spot today where you do not follow the ICW line but rather pass over an island (as displayed on the chartplotter) that is not really there which you have to do to avoid going aground. It’s another place that’s great for the towboat business.

We’re the only one in the anchorage as we continue our trek north apparently ahead of the returning snowbirds. The temps are still in the 70’s so we’re not too early I guess. This anchorage, like the rest that we like, also has a boat ramp for easy access to shore for Hoolie. We are now building a log of places for boats with dogs to use. However, the next 80 miles are devoid of any selection of anchorage that fit our criteria. With that we’ll chose an anchorage with no ramp but a sandy beach – but only at high tide, there’s mud at low tide. Hoolie loves the mud and we do our best to prevent him from rolling in it. It also carries a very good odor (to a dog!) that they seem to love.

Peaceful anchorage
Monday is a 7:00 am start day, the route is full of shallow water warnings and we want to catch the rising tide at all the trouble spots. Wish us luck.