Monday, May 23, 2011

Back at Poughkeepsie Yacht Club – That’s All Folks!

Back at PYC - Where's the sun?
We had a foul tide all the way north to PYC, about 1 to 1.5 kts against us but we chugged along and finally got in around 2:00 pm. The weather continues to be miserable (Oh, why did we leave so soon!) We haven’t seen the sun since Atlantic City and nothing but gray, overcast skies up north.

Now our odyssey is over and it’s back to the rush of things “we have to do”. The blog will be restarted on 9/15/2011 when we launch our planned return down the ICW and back to Key West again next February. Be sure to join us again in September. For sure, we’ll stay just a little longer down south to give the north a chance to warm up before we subject our southern acclimation to northern rigors.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Haverstraw Cove – At Anchor – “Where’s Summer!?”

No Summer Here!
What I want to know is, “What Happened to Summer?” I don’t ever remember a day near the end of May with a high of 60 (the predicted high for Atlantic Highlands today). We left the anchorage this morning and it could have been November or April but certainly not the weekend before Memorial Day! It’s clear that we left the warm south too soon. Today was the coldest we’ve been since leaving Poughkeepsie on September 15, 2010!

Having AIS was very helpful in this murk
At any rate, we headed north and the full enclosure was a real blessing, it was cold but we didn’t feel the 15 kt wind coming off the ocean. New York City was in a haze, partly fogged in and we couldn’t see the Battery until we got on top of it! On the other hand, there weren’t very many fools out in weather like this even though it was a Sunday in New York harbor.

Continuing north, we opt’ed for the Haverstraw Cove anchorage that we’ve used before, avoiding Fitchett’s Reef and dropping the hook in 20 ft of water. Inside here, the water is perfectly calm, no wakes and no waves (no fetch) and there’s a small boat ramp by the power station that’s perfect for Hoolie relief.

We expect to get a 7:00 am start or so to try as best we can to beat the ebbing tide that starts about the same time so we expect to reach PYC by 1:00 or so, slowed down by the ebb tide. It seems strange that what started out as a “forever” trip actually has an ending. However, we have a Long Island Sound trip planned and a vacation with the kids on a Jersey Beach in August followed by going south again in September (and another blog then) - so looking forward to the rest of 2011.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Atlantic Highlands – At anchor

Atlantic Highlands mooring area - not many boats launched yet
I got up around 4:30 am and we got off the anchor by 5:45 headed north. The grib forecast was for northerly winds around 10 kts, dying off in the afternoon and clocking around to out of the southeast by later – and that’s exactly what happened. The grib forecasts seem to be the most accurate of them all.

It was a long day! We dropped anchor at Atlantic Highlands at 5:45 pm, a 12 hour day from Atlantic City and that’s going north where there’s always a current against you, mostly about ½ knot but occasionally higher. We are wiped out and we will not try to make PYC by Sunday night, it’s just too far from here. So our next anchorage will be at Haverstraw Bay and we’ll come into PYC Monday afternoon. We already have a slew of appointments lined up, back to reality!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Atlantic City – At anchor

Harrah's at Atlantic City
We were able to escape the Coast Guard training grounds without being boarded! Onward to Atlantic City which we reached by 2:00 pm with good winds but a foul tide. The anchorage we used was one recommended by Marty and it has the additional attraction of a beach for Hoolie. We can see Atlantic City’s lights on shore which makes for a pretty view by itself.

Hoolie, asking for more food!
 We didn’t’ plan on going ashore this time, been there already on the trip down – seven days if you recall, waiting for the hurricane to pass by off shore. So this time it’s just anchoring (at no cost!)

Looking at the weather charts, it looks like we’ll be back at PYC on Sunday evening. We now plan on making Atlantic Highlands on Saturday and then take advantage of the flood tide to ride it all the way to PYC on Sunday. We’ll spend the night on the boat for sure before going home on Monday afternoon. After the last five months spent on the boat, it’ll be strange being ashore.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cape May – At anchor

Thunderstorms in the distance at Cap May
I got up at 5:00 am and took Hoolie ashore after convincing him that it really was time to go ashore, he just wanted to sleep. The day turned out much better than predicted with winds only around 5 kts and little wave action. In going down Delaware Bay, you can’t get the current in your direction all the way, it’s like going down the Hudson River – the current will eventually reverse on you. However, you can go up the bay and keep the current just like going up the Hudson, it just doesn’t work the other direction.

New Coast Guard trainees - marching, lots of orders given
 Coming into Cape May we heard the Coast Guard call four boats in succession for boarding and checking papers, we were not among those called. The first question they asked over channel 16 was “When were you last boarded by the Coast Guard?” One guy out of five answered that he was boarded this summer and passed with “flying colors”. The Coast Guard did not board him but did board the restd (hint - hint).

Since we hit Cape May at near low tide we took the canal with its 55 ft bridges The 55 ft clearance number is measured at high tide and since our mast is only 55.2 ft and it was 3 ft under high tide, we figured we had about 3 ft of clearance – however – knowing the number and then watching your mast approach the bridge from the vantage point behind the wheel is another matter. From that perspective it appears there’s no way it’s going to clear! Stop the boat! Brace for impact! But then you’re committed, the numbers are right (you tell yourself) and then you watch the mast seem to melt through the bridge, swearing that it must at least be scraping the bottom of the overhead – but you hear nothing and you cruise right on through – then you do it again for the second and last bridge, whew!

We’re peacefully anchored and a beach nearby for Hoolie relief, a perfect anchorage. It’s off to Atlantic City on Friday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chesapeake City – At anchor

The city maintains a very nice park by the canal
As we wait out the weather, we are really vacillating. Should we go, should we not? We’re looking at NOAA marine forecasts, Grib wind reports, weather buoys, wave forecasts, current predictions and more. We’re awash in data, it’s the computer age. After much going back and forth, we’ll probably leave at 6:00 am on Thursday to take advantage of the outgoing current even though there will still be some winds and waves against us. The problem with Delaware Bay is the lack of any good anchorages between here and Cape May, especially with a dog. Once you go, you’re committed and it’s 69 miles. We’ll make our final decision at 5:30 am Thursday morning. You can see our decision by looking at Spot on the blog home page (Fleetwing’s position).

The place for good ice cream!
Meanwhile, the entertainment of the day was watching boats trying to anchor in this loose mud. Six more boats came in and none were successful on the first try. The wind is dying off now so we should be okay for the night, we are closer together than I’m comfortable with but okay I think as long as no thunderstorms come through.

Looking at the tide charts, it looks liken we’re okay for taking the Cape May canal with their 55 ft height at high tide on two bridges. We should be there around low tide so we should clear given the added 3 to 4 ft of clearance. We plan on anchoring at Cape May and going north to Atlantic City on Friday. If all goes well, we’ll be back at PYC on Monday night, May 23.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chesapeake City – At anchor

Looking west from Chesapeake City
Today was a day to watch boats attempt to anchor. This afternoon we noticed the powerboat off our starboard side a little closer than before. Sure enough we notice the captain up on deck looking the situation over and he decided to reanchor. Up comes the anchor (covered extensively with mud – the harbor was just dredged this past year, the bottom is soft) and he tries further in. He started to slip again and up comes the anchor a 2nd time. Now he tries off to the left and once again drags. He tries the right side, again he drags. Finally he puts out two anchors and apparently one of them held and he looks secure now.

Looking east
He was followed by a second boat that attempted to anchor for over an hour. He had a dinky anchor not fit the trawler he had. Of course it wouldn’t hold in this soft mud. After four attempts all over the anchorage, he finally wound up taking a dock. I just can’t understand how otherwise rational people become irrational when it comes to anchor selection.

When I had my previous boat, I had an anchor (a 35 lb Delta) that had never let me down but I was determined to get the best possible anchor for my new Beneteau. I did not depend upon my limited personal experience but consulted all the independent anchor holding tests ( PS where the Spade anchor was rated #1 overall in sand and mud even though they tested the aluminum model which only weighed 17 lbs, another test by PMY gave similar results) with the result that the Spade anchor consistently came out on top in holding power, setting ability and lack of dragging after a wind shift when resetting in a different direction. I’ll never understand people who blindly follow their past, limited experience when better anchors are out there as independently tested under real conditions. I can only conclude that many people are not rational but choose based on emotion.

Based on the anchor tests, I have a 45 lb Spade anchor with 60 feet of 3/8 inch BBB chain, heavy enough to provide a good catenary so the pull on the anchor is more nearly horizontal to the harbor bottom, a good direction for maximum holding. Needless to say, I had no problem anchoring here and have never dragged, ever with my present ground tackle.

We are still awaiting good weather and it’s looking more and more like Friday or even Saturday, we’ll see.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chesapeake City, MD – At anchor

View off the back of the boat
 Chesapeake City on the Chesapeake – Delaware Canal had always been a favorite of the snowbirds but it had silted in the last few years. Well, the city fathers recognizing the economic importance of attracting boaters organized a dredging of the harbor with the result that now there’s 10 feet everywhere in the harbor and the problem entrance is gone (now 10 ft there too). Furthermore, they have now three free docks for use by visiting cruisers. Electricity ($15) and water ($10) are extra but the dock is free, that’s hard to beat. Stays are limited to one night at the dock but there is no limit on anchoring time. Since we expect to stay here for several days due to high winds against the current of Delaware Bay, we opted to anchor. There’s a small craft advisory out for Delaware Bay through Wednesday at least.

Room for three boats at the free docks
 Today there was no wind so it was motoring all the way. The canal was closed for part of the morning due to fog but by the time we arrived it was open for business. We were against the tide all the way but still made the 46 miles to Chesapeake City by 2:45.

The restaurant right on the anchorage was having a half-price special on hamburgers and beer for Monday night so we took advantage of that. The hamburgers consisted of ½ pound of Angus beef with four choices of types. At ½ price the two hamburgers and pitcher of beer came to $19 with tip and tax, not bad especially considering the burgers were excellent.

The TiKi bar was right on the water at the harbor
Back on the boat we’ll be watching the wind forecasts especially closely. We do not want to go down Delaware Bay with the tide behind us and the wind on the nose. That’s wind against tide and on the Delaware Bay, that’s just dangerous given the 3 to 4 kt current and predicted 25 kt gusts. Thursday is a maybe but Friday looks like a more likely day. Until then we’ll be at anchor in Chesapeake City.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baltimore – We go for a sail

This guy was all over the bay vacuuming up surface debris
Today was supposed to not be a good day with rain and thunderstorms but it turned out much better than predicted. One of the things we missed on our cruise up and down the ICW was visiting with family. To some extent, we’ve been able to visit along the way and that has helped a lot. This weekend it was with Carrie and family. Philip and family visited us while we were in Key West.

Typical "big ships" in the bay
We did take the boat out for an afternoon sail, not much wind but still fun with everybody aboard. There wasn’t a drop of rain until after everybody had left, convenient of the weather to humor us that way. I’m sure we’ll be asked to pay up on that in the future. At our present rate of progress, we’ll be back at PYC by the first week of June, perhaps earlier if the weather holds but we’re not counting on it.

We plan to make Chesapeake City on Tuesday if we can avoid the predicted rain and thunderstorms, not so far if we’re hit with them.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Baltimore – Carrie and family arrive

Bridge connecting the two haves of the aquarium
 All of a sudden, the weather had turned cool and damp with the threat of rain and thunderstorms so naturally that’s when company arrives. In the morning we went to the boat show and found the place deserted – we had expected it to be packed but the cool weather and threat of rain must have kept people away. As a result, most of the vendors had nothing to do and we were often entreated to stop for a chat. We never did buy anything but it was fun to look.

One of several huge tanks
Around 2;30 we had the invasion from Pennsylvania with Carrie and family arriving. It was off to the aquarium for the afternoon. A note about the Baltimore aquarium, I’ve been in a dozen or so aquariums and the one at Baltimore is hands down the best of the lot. If you ever get to Baltimore, don’t pass up a chance to see it. We looked on the internet for the best time to visit with the least crowds and up popped 4:00 pm on a Saturday so we went then. However, we found the place packed! It is so popular that when you buy a ticket, it has on it the time you can enter – and it’s enforced! We had the 4:00 pm ticket and we all lined up waiting for the go ahead for that time slot. I never encountered that type of time control before – but for this aquarium I think it’s necessary.

There was even a submarine to explore
Back to the boat we took advantage of the Little Havana restaurant again, all very good. We have a boat full and hopefully everyone can sleep well (thinking of the two grandkids) and have more adventures on Sunday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baltimore – At a dock

Strange looking art museum by the marina
Once again we spent an uneasy night on the mooring in Annapolis. It is really deceiving since the harbor appears well protected from all directions but the swells have a way of curving around and reaching the inner harbor. Even the boats at the docks further in were rocking.

At any rate, we dropped the mooring and headed to Baltimore around 8:30 or so. A front had come through and there was no sun and quite chilly. The high tomorrow is only supposed to be in the 60’s, where’s summer? At least there was no rain. Baltimore is way up the river from the Chesapeake, about 15 miles up which is why we’ve never been there before. There’s a boat show in town and along with the aquarium and Museum of Natural History, there’s lots to do with the kids even without all the shops and restaurants.

Great Cuban restaurant - go early, crowded later
If you’re ever in Baltimore, I would recommend trying Little Havana, a Cuban restaurant right on the waterfront next to the Baltimore HarborView marina. We had Cuban sandwiches, the first ones we’ve had since Key West. We’ll be here for the next three days visiting with Carrie and family before heading north again on Monday.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Annapolis – On a mooring

Google Blogger had an outage, some problem where they have to shut all their blogs down for awhile and I couldn't update until now. Hopefully, everything is fixed now.

A tribute to Alex Haley in statues
The harbor appears to be very well protected from all directions so we were surprised last night when the boat started to surge around 9:00 pm. The bow rose and fell about a foot or so for six hours. Where were the waves coming from? Around 4:00 am the moving subsided and in the morning I looked at the Annapolis lighthouse wind log to see what happened. The wind had suddenly rose from 8 kts to 19 kts right at 9:00 pm out of the southeast. Now we are protected from that direction very well but apparently the waves created by the wind were able to work their way around the point and into the anchorage, hitting the boats broadside They were not large, perhaps 6 inches at most but they were in sync with the boat’s side to side rhythm. Despite it all, we slept very well, you just had to brace yourself somewhat but it was unexpected since we had thought the anchorage was protected.

Taking Hoolie ashore, we found the dinghy dock flooded once again. The flooding advisory issued by NOAA had been extended to today. However, it didn’t affect exploring the town but the crowds are starting to increase.

The guy on the left was givng a class on how to ride them
I finally broke down and upgraded my Verizon internet connection. They had a special on where I got the WiFi card that allows five wireless internet connections simultaneously through the card for $50/month. Since I hadn’t updated my phone for 10 years, I got all the hardware for free, including a new phone. In net it cost me $35/month more than what I was paying now since I was using the phone’s internet connection before at $15/month which I then cancelled. In addition, it’s 15 times faster than my previous connection. Now I can use Skype video for calls to the kids.

On Friday we leave for Baltimore and a dock for a weekend with Carrie and family.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Annapolis – At a town mooring

Racing for the finish line!
We heard on the news that there was a flood warning out for this area but we couldn’t understand that since there hasn’t been all that much rain but sure enough when we took Hoolie ashore we found his island awash, there was no beach. So we scouted the area and found an embankment nearby for Hoolie. The weather forecast mentioned strong easterly winds coinciding with high tides as the driving force for the high water.

Dinghy dock was under water!
We only had 12 miles to go today so we just lazed along under sail even though we only had about 8 kts of wind, one of the few times we’ve sailed. We found the mooring field at Annapolis deserted and so we took mooring #1, right next to Ego Alley, a front row seat. When we went ashore in our dinghy, we found the same situation here as at Rhode River, the dinghy dock area was flooded. Ann took her shoes off to wade through the water. There were several streets closed due to the high water.

Annaplois state house
 Wednesday is race day at Annapolis. They race out in the bay but the finish line is right by the mooring area. We got in our dinghy and had a front row seat. They are truly beautiful boats with their high masts and spinnakers flying. Several paraded up and down Ego Alley, probably just to show off. We’re on a mooring but there were still lots of slips available on Ego Alley too. I guess it’s still early in the season, they are far from full. We’ll spend another day here before moving on to Baltimore to meet up with Caroline and family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rhode River – At anchor

What are the two red floats for?
We had intended to go to Annapolis today but we got a late start due to high winds in the morning. Eventually the winds slackened and we headed out around 10:15 am. The winds were on the nose so it was a motoring day and as we motored further north, the winds died even more. Along the way we noticed a lot of fishermen out in their boats with two floats off the aft end. I have no idea what they are for – anybody have any ideas?

With the flat water, we made good time for a sailboat motoring, averaging 7.3 kts through the water but only 6.3 to 6.5 over land since there was a foul tide (of course!) The Rhode River anchorage is about 6 miles in from the bay and it’s very protected from all directions with the ultimate plus of have convenient Hoolie relief at a deserted island with a sandy beach. With that we anchor near the island and just have a short hop for our island visits.

Heaven for Hoolie
We’ll move on to Annapolis on Wednesday and probably stay for two days before continuing on to Baltimore where our daughter and her husband and two kids will meet us for the weekend. One problem with cruising like we do is the limited times we get to see the kids so we try to arrange get togethers along the way. It’s boat show weekend so it’s probably going to be crowded but we have a slip reserved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Zahniser’s Yachting Center – At a dock

He added a blue boot stripe later that day
Waiting for weather on the Chesapeake is a little strange. When the wind flows out of the north, the anchorages can be very calm with little wind, leading one to believe that the marine forecast for much high winds and waves to be inaccurate. Several times on the way down in the fall we started out from a calm anchorage believing the forecasts to be overly pessimistic to only find that the forecast was dead on. Twice we turned around and returned to our anchorage. Out of the dozen or so boats holed up with us, about half did the same thing we did – out and then back to the anchorage. What seems to happen is that the Chesapeake narrows south of Annapolis and whatever wind out of the north there is gets funneled into a narrower space and gives a venturi effect, speeding up the wind. The marine forecasts accounts for this apparently well know effect for this area but the general wind force predictions do not.

Nice varnished teak - no lifelines!
Armed with all that background, we rationalized staying put today since the forecast was for 10 to 15 kt winds and higher gusts with 3 ft waves out of the north, the direction we were headed – all with a northerly current so there would be wind against tide too. On Tuesday the winds are supposed to subside somewhat and the waves likewise. Unwanted forecasts have a way of persisting past their supposed demise.

So we did boat chores and are now ready to continue our journey on Tuesday. Zahniser’s Yachting Center is a beehive of activity in boat painting, repairing and general maintenance. One guy was doing a dark blue paint job, just gorgeous (photo). We noted another boat with every visible top surface being varnished teak, wow, what upkeep. The same boat had no lifelines, something seen more often than you might think. The owners seem to like the look of their boat without the lifelines. They probably don’t do much sailing anyway but the boat does look good that way – it would never be for me though.

Ann took this photo - we like sunsets!
Onward on Tuesday!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Zahniser’s Yachting Center at Solomons, MD – At a dock

Senset at Zahniser's Yachting Center
We said our goodbyes to Don and Liz Bunch and continued our trek north. The water was flat and there was no wind – so it was motoring all the way, 54 miles to Solomons, MD. Just to add to our enjoyment, we had a foul tide too so we didn’t get to Solomons until 5:00 pm.

We saw a huge ship in the distance but it didn’t seem to be moving. Then I looked at the chart and noticed a warning about a sunken ship that was still above the water and it was surrounded by a circle on the chart denoting a bombing range. It was obviously a practice target for bombing runs but there was no activity today. In fact, there’s a lot of areas in the Chesapeake Bay where there are warnings about unexploded ordinances.

The Zahniser’s Yachting Center in Solomons has fixed docks and we were assigned an end dock on a T which is very easy to come into. Such docks invariably have pilings on the end that extend beyond the edge of the dock so you can’t put out fenders if you have any forward motion, they will just get caught between the pilings and the side of the boat, putting great stain on lifelines or even bending a stanchion. The pilings we’ve encountered have all been treated pine and relatively soft, causing no damage or marks on the boat.

We’re watching the weather and it looks like Monday will not be a good day for going north. If the bad forecast holds out, we’ll just stay another day and wait for better weather, we’re in no hurry.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Onancock Wharf – At a dock

The Onancock Wharf clubhouse
 Well, it was a beautiful day but there was no wind. We motored out of the yacht club but I strayed from the path in the channel I took on the way in and I ran aground. After 8 months of cruising along the ICW, running aground is no longer a big deal. I backed out and altered course to the north and had no further problems. It’s somewhat surprising how you become accustomed to shallow water. Running aground is no big deal anymore. The bottom along the ICW is either sand or soft mud which causes no damage except to your ego.

Dinner with a flower!
With the lack of wind, we reverted to the iron genny and motored our way across the Chesapeake to Onancock and took a town dock. It is a long way in, over 6 miles through a narrow but deep channel. We found an outstanding restaurant, The Mallard. The chef was professionally trained and took great pride in his menu. He was personally present for the serving of every plate. We bought his cookbook which also included music from his band. I’m sure we’ll be trying out several of his creations during our trip north.

The town itself reminds one of the towns in Maine with the layout of the streets and the houses with the green grass lawns. There are many restaurants along with lots of interesting shops but the best restaurant is The Mallard where we ate.

On Sunday it’s off to Solomens on our way north.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fishing Bay Yacht Club – At a free dock

Fishing Bay Yacht Club docks
 With the genset finally repaired, it was time to move on north. Our goal was the Fishing Bay Yacht Club, about 40 miles up the Chesapeake. First we took on fuel and as we started the engine, we noticed that the autopilot would not turn on. Oh no, not again. The first thing to check are always the connections, especially with Raytheon instruments with Seatalk plugs which are famous for working loose. They do not have a positive latch to keep them in their socket which is a design flaw for a boat given all the motion, bumps, vibration, etc. Sure enough, the plug in the back of the autopilot head mounted on the binnacle was loose. Pushing it back in cured the problem and taping the lead to the nearest post further helped to keep it that way. On a boat you become your own fix-it man or go broke. If the genset ever speeds up again in rpm, I’ll know what to do. I do make a point of carrying spares of all major wearout items so at least I don’t have to pay retail for replacements if they fail. Even if installation requires expert help, it still pays to have the spares on-board which saves both time and money.

Note the construction of the fixed docks, typical of area
With a 15 to 20 kt wind all day long out of the southwest, we sailed almost all the way north, about 6 hours of sailing. The channel into the yacht club is very narrow and at one point it appears to go within 100 feet of shore before a sharp turn to port. As I approached the entrance, the boat next to me suddenly pulled up (I thought he was going through first) and held up the radio. We called and he said, “I’ll follow you in!” Right. So I led the parade down the channel with the warning from the yacht club of “Be sure to stay in the channel, it’s very narrow” still ringing in my ear. Naturally, about mid-way through the channel, another boat was coming out so we passed very close (Why couldn’t he wait??)

The Fishing Bay Yacht Club has two free docks for visitors from other yacht clubs. The docks come with electricity and water along with showers and restrooms ashore which are spotless. Given that the docks are extremely well protected, it’s a perfect stop-over.

We’re off again on Saturday across the bay, hopefully with some wind left over from today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunset Boating Center – The genset gets fixed!

Bass Outdoor World - a fun store to explore
I met our Panda repairman this morning as he came to the boat to re-look at fixing the genset. Now that at least it is pumping water, he can focus on fixing the electrical over-voltage condition. This morning he was convinced it was in the electronics, perhaps a stuck relay. After a couple more hours and calls to his backup expert he couldn’t find the problem. Eventually his expert came to the boat and together they found the problem.

On the Panda genset, the speed of the motor determines the frequency of the output voltage. It ought to be 62 to 63 Hertz under a no-load condition. The genset was producing 64.2 Hertz and 139 volts, much too high. Looking at the engine, they found a worn spot where the rpm adjustment lever rests against the metal of the engine block. After 7 years of use, the lever had rubbed a small depression in the metal of the engine block at that spot. This allowed the lever to depress more than originally set and sped up the engine rpms. When the expert put a screwdriver under the lever to raise it to the level originally set, the genset output the right voltage and Hertz cycles!

Bass Outdoor World in-store aquarium
Armed with that information, they put a set screw through the lever and raised it to the originally set level and brought the genset back to spec on voltage and cycles per second (Hertz). Thinking about it after the fact, it all makes sense. It was basically a wear down issue, metal to metal. The later model Pandas have a set screw to address just such a problem but not mine, an earlier model. Furthermore, Panda technical support never suggested looking at the lever which can be seen external to the engine block. They have since been updated and hopefully will be able to help in solving similar problems in the future, I was the guinea pig.

Meanwhile, I took Ann to the local walk-in clinic and was I ever surprised! The clinic was outstanding. It looked like the future of medical support. You signed in on a computer touch screen so all your information was free of typos and we were spared the constant request to “spell Sherer”. Once inside, Ann was tested for weight, heart rate, blood pressure, O2 content and sent to a waiting room. Not more than 5 minutes later, the doctor appeared and carefully examined Ann, asking pertinent questions followed by a diagnosis and prescriptions which he filled out on the spot after sliding a panel to open a door to a computer where he typed in all the information including the prescriptions. I was very impressed with the efficiency and friendliness of all the staff. Before Ann could leave, she was asked to rate the performance of the staff including the doctor on a scale of 0 to 5 on a computer monitor. So the entire staff got instant feedback on how they did that very day, very impressive. Ann is now fixed up with meds for her trip north and she feels much, much better about that!

Friday we’re off north again, sailing with the Bunches and hopefully a south wind.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sunset Boat Center – At a dock

37 beers on tap!
We’re here to get our genset repaired. The original reason was to correct an over-voltage condition but just before coming, the genset quit pumping cooling water overboard. So that condition had to be repaired before working on the over-voltage problem. As it turned out, the repairman spent about 6 hours trying to correct the problem. In the process of trying to get cooling water to pump out, he replaced the water pump, re-routed the water supply line, bled the water output – none of which corrected the problem.

Finally I suggested tackling the problems one area at a time instead of the shotgun approach. Step 1 was to see if the pump would output water if it was fed directly from a bucket instead of the water filter and seacock. Answer was no. Step 2, would it pump water if the hose directly aft of the pump was opened. Answer, it did! Therefore, the pump was okay and the problem was downline of the pump, somewhere in the engine cooling system. We back flushed the cooling plumbing in the engine and tried again – it pumped water! There was evidently some obstruction in the cooling system that the back-flush fixed, at least for the moment. However, all this consumed the entire day (and a new water pump!) The genset specialist is due tomorrow to address the over-voltage condition. Hopefully it’s a simple matter of an adjustment? (ha) All this does show the value of separately testing parts of system instead of a shotgun approach.

After all this discouraging work, we retired with Don and Liz Bunch to sample some of the 37 beers on tap at the local restaurant. I found a smooth, light beer that was incredible, very good. The food consisted mostly of sandwiches but they also had fresh seafood if you wanted it.

Properly fortified, I now feel up to facing the genset once again on Thursday – hopefully with better results – and quicker!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunset Creek Marina at Hampton, VA – At a dock

View out the back on the Dismal Swamp Canal
In the Dismal Swamp Canal the locks only open at certain times. You can’t just request an opening like you can on some bridges. For our passage, the times of openings were 8:30 am, 11:00 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. You had to be ready to go when the gates opened. If you were 5 minutes late, too bad, you would have to wait for the next scheduled opening. So we motored along to make the 11:00 opening. As you can see, the canal is straight as an arrow and gets rather narrow in spots. It averages 7 to 8 ft deep but there are many parts with 6 ft depths for short stretches.

One of two aircraft carriers in port
 We made the locks on time and headed to the one bridge that’s not very accommodating to boaters, the Gilmerton Bridge. It’s not open at all from 6:30 – 8:30 am and from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. In-between it’s only open on the half-hour (e.g., 10:30, 11:30, etc.) With so few openings, there’s always a traffic jam in both directions when it does open.

Norfolk is a big naval center and we saw two aircraft carriers along the docks! They had a moveable, floating fence all around each carrier with a little tugboat that would pull the floating fence open and shut for incoming traffic. Going through this stretch of the ICW is like New York Harbor, always busy, lots of wave action from the passing traffic but always interesting.

We’re in Sunset Creek Marina to have the over voltage condition of our genset looked at. That session starts around 9:00 am on Wednesday. We’re also due to get a change of weather that day with rain and thunderstorms followed by Thursday with a high of only 60 as the north winds pump in behind the cold front! Today it was 80, some change coming.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dismal Swamp Canal Visitors’ Center – At the bulkhead

8 ft to go
The wind finally did die off last night and we had a peaceful evening and calm morning for shoving off. The boats in the flotilla headed off at different times, representing their relative speed they could maintain since the lock into the canal only opened at specific times. In our case we wanted to make the 11:00 lock opening so we left at 8:30. Some of the smaller boats had to leave at 7:30 to arrive in time. Once in the lock, you tie up to the side and watch the water level rise with the opening of the other end of the lock. In this case, the water rose 8 ft.

Counting us, there were four boats at the bulkhead at the visitors’ center. It doubles as a rest stop for the adjacent highway. There is no fee for staying overnight at the bulkhead. There’s water available but no electricity. However, the area is beautiful and calm, nothing more to ask.

Good food, good conversation
With four boats gathered we decided to have a potluck dinner which is part of the fun in traveling in a group. So we had drinks, dinner and related boating stories through the evening. It was helped by the fact that there were no bugs! They say that the water in the canal doesn’t support mosquitoes since the water is always moving – has a current – and the mosquitoes don’t get a chance to hatch. For whatever reason, I’ll take the end results – no bugs. On Tuesday it’s on to Hampton, VA and work required on our genset.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Elizabeth City – At the town free docks

Elizabeth City is a big center for blimps
The boat ahead of us had a 5’ 9” keel but still made it through the channel out of the Alligator River Marina although he came to a halt and had to power forward to plow through the mud to get out. We followed and saw 4.9 ft on the depth sounder and didn’t touch bottom. I figured we had about an inch of water between us and the mud bottom – but it was enough, no problem.

The wind was on the button of course as we headed north but as we cleared the Alligator River entrance, we put up our sails and had an enjoyable ride for almost two hours before the wind died.

Fixed docks - lots of hard things to bang into if you're not careful
Coming into Elizabeth City we expected to see the “Rose Buddies” to help us into the dock but with it being a Sunday I guess everybody was off-duty and we made it in by ourselves. The dock is free, the best part, but it does lack conveniences. First of all, you have to be very careful in docking so as not to ram into the stonewall at the end of the dock (you dock bow in). The docks are fixed, not floating and four piers are at the four corners to be used as tie-off points for the boat. It’s actually a good arrangement in that it keeps the boat from hitting anything (once you have everything tied-off!) We were lucky that when we docked the wind had died off completely so we had a relatively easy time of it.

Don and Liz Bunch and their cruising flotilla arrived a couple of hours later and we helped them find the right slip and offered a hand for lines. The wind started to blow pretty good out of the south which is not a good direction for the Elizabeth City docks which are wide open in that direction. Still, we weren't too bad and we all walked to dinner next door and shared cruising stories. The group is headed north to the visitors’ center in the Dismal Canal on Monday with a pot-luck dinner in store for the evening, should be fun.