Saturday, April 30, 2016

Swan Point Marina - at their dock, we miss bridges galore

The inside docks are too shallow for us at low tide
We left this morning from Carolina Beach State Park around 6:40 since the tide was dropping and we were docked on the shallowest facedock. As it turned out, we had 6.1 ft of depth on the way out, no problem for our 4 ft 9 in keel.

Sculptures by the residents
Entering Snow's Cut the tide was ripping, against us naturally and it was going to be our undoing. There's been severe shoaling at the inlet just north of Carolina Beach and you actually have to go outside the channel and pass the green buoys on the wrong side to get good water! The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) surveyed the inlet and associated ICW channel and published waypoints that took you outside the channel and on the "wrong" side of the greens. If you follow the channel as shown on your chartplotter you will go aground, even at mid tide. BOAT/US and Seatow must be happy indeed with all the business. I found 7 ft MLW just by hugging the extreme side of the channel. At some point it will be dredged a soon as they get the money but don't hold your breath.

And that's not all
We had a foul tide all day, seven hours in all. Due to the adverse current, we missed all the bridges (one by 5 minutes which resulted in an hour of circling)  which delayed us about two hours from our planned timing. We had thought about going on to Swansboro but with all the delays, there was no chance of that. That put us at Swan Point Marina which is a place unto itself. It's about about rustic as it gets but with outstanding customer service by the owner and her daughter. They have a courtesy car which I think is the owners personal car and it's all hands on deck when you arrive. We took the outside face dock (not inside the marina which is too shallow for our keel) since we wanted to leave on Sunday at 8:30 am which is also low tide for the day.

The outside dock is open to wakes from passing boats but it's secure
Hopefully we can make Cedar Creek by the afternoon and then we'll see what lies the weatherman is handing out for the weather on the Neuse River. We need either no wind or some wind if it's out of the southwest. Anything with an easterly component is not good news for going up the Neuse. If we're successful we'll dock at RE Mayo and stock up on local shrimp and scallops, none better.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Carolina Beach State Park - at a dock, Rock Pile and the weatherman lies

Today was the day we headed through the "Rock Pile". It's a section of the ICW where they encountered rock instead of sandy soil but still had to maintain the dollars per mile budget. Their solution was to narrow the ICW to make up for the added cost of clearing the ledge. With that the custom has always been to announce yourself when entering the "Rock Pile" stretch of the ICW, especially valuable if an oncoming barge is entering from the opposite direction. So we announced ourselves and heard nothing in return and entered from the south.

I dare you to pass the red marker on the wrong side!
This time we passed through at low tide so we could see all the ledges on either side. They are just beyond the markers which is why they reinforce the rule of never going beyond the markers in the Rock Pile. At low tide you can see the ledges but at mid or high tide you cannot even though they are still lurking just below the surface. They have done untold thousands of dollars of damage to boats that wandered, typically a ruined propeller and a bent propeller shaft if you're lucky and the boat doesn't sink. We came through the middle of the channel and had no problems. In a dozen traverses of the Rock Pile, we've never yet met another boat going the other way.

You can't see these ledges at mid or high tide but they are there just below the surface
The weatherman really told a whopper this morning. He said there was only going to be 5 to 10 kts of wind out of the east or southeast when going north on the Cape Fear River. What we encountered was 15 to 20 kts of wind with occasional gusts to 25 kts out of the northeast which was the direction we were headed. The Admiral was not pleased! We took the usual water over the dodger in seas like this and it was rock and roll time. Gradually the waves lessened as we moved up the bay but not by alot. One wonders how a prediction can be so wrong?!

A view of "A" dock, note the inefficient use of big docks for small boats, the park rangers know nothing about marinas
Regardless, we eventually made it into the Carolina Beach State Park and found it almost full. They do not take reservations so when we arrived all the slips were taken except on C dock which is the shallowest and hardest to get to since you want to be facing bow out in the morning. I was successful in backing in after a few tries with the adverse wind and we're settled in for the night. It's now at low tide on C dock and we still have 4.8 ft, barely enough to float our 4 ft 9 in draft. We plan on leaving in the morning with a 1.2 ft tide, just enough to leave on, we hope. I think I did myself in by making this place so popular. It's a great deal and now it's being recognized as such by more and more cruisers.

Our sunset for the night
We're headed for Swan Point Marina on Saturday. It's located at a convenient point for us. It's just before the Marines training grounds and situated so we can make Cedar Creek the next day.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Barefoot Landing Marina - Last day so lots of cleaning, a CGA inspection and Greg Norman's

It is springtime after all
So it was all the usual stuff in the morning to get the boat looking halfway decent for the rest of the trip north. Spray 9 beats anything we've tried for spot cleaning (Roll-Off, Simple Green and everything else we've used). It came out ahead of all other marine cleaners in tests run by Practical Sailor. I use On and Off for getting rid of rust stains on fiberglass, it works like magic. Of course it's good for the ICW mustache too, its primary use. Our double coat of Fleetwax is still holding up without ICW staining after NY to Key West to here although there is staining on the back of the boat under the swim platform. Finally, Collinite Metal Wax is used for removing surface rust on stainless steel. It took all morning but we're done for now.

We keep meeting more couples that recognize Fleetwing and me as Bob423. Everyone said hi said they used the postings I made on Active Captain on how to negotiate hazards. It's good to hear that people find the postings useful. While resting in the cockpit two representatives for the Coast Guard Auxiliary came by to see if we wanted a free inspection, we said, "Sure". We passed but our fire extinguishers were close to failing. A trip over to Walmart fixed that potential problem.

Great Food
As is our custom, we dined at Greg Norman's Australian Grill on the last day of our stay. So I made reservations and we had the best steak I've found on the ICW. On the downside, it's not cheap but we do enjoy the food and we only do it twice a year.

We plan on leaving Friday morning at 8:00 am to give us enough time to make the 9:00 opening at the Little River bridge which only opens on the top of the hour, it's a temporary schedule while they're working on the bridge. We hope to reach Carolina Beach State Park where you can get a dock for $30 regardless of size (up to a max of 43 feet).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Barefoot Landing Marina - Visits from Blog readers

View of the lake at Barefoot Landing
For the first time in awhile we both got out and ran/walked for 30 minutes in the morning. The one downside about cruising is that when you're not at a marina long term, the exercise level tends to decrease. You still get a good workout by going up and down the companionway stairs and in countering the motion of the boat as it moves along but it's not the same as purposely moving in the morning on a run.

They even have a "pirate" ship
Barefoot Landing has a service where they will take you for grocery shopping during the day at no charge. We took advantage of that offer and went to Walmart (where else?) and stocked up. Evidently my fame is spreading. I found a couple waiting for me that had just bought a trawler. They were headed south to Savannah and wanted to see me about recommendations along the way and hazards to avoid. We spent about an hour in the cockpit going over the details. They bought two of my cruising books and I was even asked to sign one. The dockmaster also wanted one of the books.

Wildlife is in abundance
By Tuesday we should be at Don and Liz Bunch's condo in Washington, North Carolina if the weather holds. We'll first head for Carolina Beach State Park on Friday. They have dockage at $30/day regardless of the size of the boat. That's my kind of marina. The current will be flowing north by the time we get to the Cape Fear river, a must for going north since it can reach three knots. Hopefully the weather holds.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Barefoot Landing Marina - at their docks

Scene along the Waccamaw River
It was a picture postcard day with temperatures in the 70's and little wind with no chance of rain. On the way to Barefoot Landing we passed through the Waccamaw River which I think is one of the most beautiful stretches of the ICW. You can go for miles without seeing civilization. The cypress trees come right up to the edge of the river. I know there are alligators there since we took a side trip in a rented car one time to visit the Brookgreen Gardens where we rode a sightseeing boat to the side streams and they were full of alligators! You can understand why we don't anchor out in this area.

In the lake in Barefoot Landing
We like Barefoot Landing due to all the outlets which Ann likes to browse through and we both like Greg Norman's Australian Grill. They have the best steaks on the ICW. We'll pay a visit to Greg Norman before we leave.

Hoolie likes to see the lions and tigers at the live exhibit in the outlet area. The tigers are really interested in him too. They have a porch like area extending into the walkway with plexiglass so the animals are clearly visible and they can see you too!

The animals are popular with the kids
We plan on being here for three days before continuing north. One reason for the layover is to get in sync with the flood tide going up the Cape Fear River, it will be with us on Friday afternoon, hope the good weather holds.
The slip is one long dock but you can step right off to Barefoot Landing outlets

Monday, April 25, 2016

Georgetown at Georgetown Landing Marina - at a dock

Not all bridges are raised, this one is floated across
We left at not one of Ann's favorite times, before 7:00 in order to beat the 7:00 to 9:00 am closing of the Ben Sawyer bridge. However it did result in a good headstart on getting through the shallows. The major obstacle of the Isle of Palm ICW just north of the bridge has been solved, it's been dredged to at least 10 ft at MLW. Unfortunately, the rest of the shallows on the way to Georgetown have not been dredged. To compensate for that we timed our passage at near high tide today. Nevertheless, by following the magenta line (ICW centerline) as shown on Garmin charts, we never saw the depth dip below 6.0 MLW. We could have made it through even at low tide with our 4 ft 9 in draft.

It's a nice marina, great fishing fleet but a long walk to our docks
In the area around Georgetown we do not anchor out, there are alligators around. We took a dock at one nearby marina and the dockmaster said do you allow your dog to swim? We replied that we do not and he said it was a good thing and proceeded to show us all the photos of alligators he shot in his marina. He said to give him a call if one climb up on the swim platform. They usually left when sprayed with a hose! Later on we were sitting on the back of our boat and spied something in the water and then it became apparent that it was an alligator returning "home" after a day in the bay. We kept Hoolie on a short leash and we've never been back to that marina since. Now we take a slip closer to Georgetown.

There's a lot of current in this river and it's one reason the rice plantations were so abundant in the early years. Even with the tides, it was always fresh water and they used dikes to alternately flood and drain the rice fields with the 4 ft tidal range. It was a very rich area in the 1800's. It took a toll on those working the fields with all the snakes, alligators and mosquitoes.

On Tuesday we have reservations at Barefoot Landing Marina for three days to enjoy the area and east out one night at Greg Norman's Australian Grill. They have the best steaks on the ICW and the shopping area there is great fun.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Charleston at Tolers Cove Marina - at a dock

Passing through Charleston Harbor is always an adventure, dodging racing sailboats
The night at Steamboat Creek was perfectly calm, what a great anchorage. We didn't have far to go so we were the last one out of the anchorage although there was only two boats counting us there. There's room for at least a hundred boats and yet it's very well protected.

We could have a flower garden like this too if that's all I did all summer
We couldn't get into the Charleston Maritime Center so we went on to Tolers Cove Marina. It's just before the Ben Sawyer bridge, just off the ICW. The marina serves the associated condos but they do rent out a few slips to transients for the best price in the area, $1.27/ft and that includes electric too. They also offer free rides to the nearby supermarkets. Ann likes Harris Teeter so it was off for provisions in the afternoon.

I've been putting off looking at the impeller. It lives inside the raw water pump and if that stops working either the boat stops or the engine overheats with disastrous results. It had not been replaced for a couple of years so I was a little concerned but not concerned enough to look before now. When I took it out, it actually didn't look that bad, just a tear on one vane but no vanes missing so no hunting down the cooling path to fine any missing parts, a relief. Now I'm good for another two years but I think I'll look at it more often, probably.

The view off the back of our boat tonight
The Ben Sawyer bridge closes from 7:00 am to 9:00 am during the week so we have to get out of the marina by 6:30 to make the bridge opening or else wait for two hours, we'll make an early start instead. We aiming for Georgetown, 52 Nm north and will have good tide for all the shallows, yeah!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Steamboat Creek - at anchor

All by ourselves, nice
We were well positioned for all the shallows with a high tide around 10:30 am. So we left around 7:30 am and got into Steamboat Creek at 12:30. We would have gone farther except there were no docks available at anyplace we wanted to stay. With that we decided to just anchor out at Steamboat and then go on to the Isle of Palms on Sunday at a marina. That would put us in a good position for Georgetown on Monday and Barefoot Landing on Tuesday so that's our plan for now.

Typical South Caroline lane, picturesque
The weather remains excellent for travelling north. I think we put enough bad weather days in the bank at St Augustine, five days in all. It's about time things evened out. The anchorage here is one of our favorites. It has a dock for Hoolie relief and the holding is beyond excellent, really thick mud. With a light wind, there's no insects and we're sitting on the back of the boat watching the sunset. It's anchorages like this that make cruising the ICW so enjoyable.

The end of a perfect day on the ICW
One more thing, in my blog yesterday I forgot to mention the replacement of the forward hatch. Just add that to the list of typical boat duties cruising down the ICW.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Lady's Island Marina in Beaufort - at anchor

Crossing into Field's Cut we had to avoid this guy
Thunderstorms were predicted all day long but we didn't see any on radar when we set o;ut so off we were at 7:30 am. Sometimes the weatherman errs in your favor, not often but sometimes. I was thinking back on a conversation I had yesterday with the sailors at cocktail hour in our cockpit. It illustrates what a jack of all trades a boater has to be.

We love to see dredgers!
In this trip alone we had the following issues:
- The Genset: The genset wouldn't start. The control panel was blank, what to do? I called the home office of Kohler but they referred me to the dealer I bought the genset from. However, that person had left the company and the person left couldn't help. So I started calling dealers asking for advice and after about 10 calls I received a suggestion to check the starter terminal since that's where the power for the control panel comes from. Now, a genset is a compact device, everything is crammed into a small space. So I started pulling things off and found that the lug fastened to the starter terminal was bent to fit and it had failed at that bend. I replaced the lug and the genset started right up. A 10 cent piece with poor installation stopped a $16,000 genset.

- The outboard motor stopped and I took it to a repair facility and of all things, it was just a fouled spark plug which I could have fixed myself. However, he recommended I use Ring Free additive in the fuel to clean out carbon deposits. I found some in Key West and added it to the tank. Upon first attempting to start it died immediately so I took it to a dealer who had the carburetor cleaned but it still didn't work right, I ended up buying a new one and selling the old one. Upon reflection, the Ring Free may have done its job superbly. The old outboard was 10 years old with the original fuel tank and hose. Putting a carbon cleaner in such an old system probably loosened a lot of carbon and its only way out is through the needle valve in the carburetor, too much and it clogs. I probably caused my own problem. Lesson learned for the future.

- The Air Conditioner stopped working in the heat cycle. It cooled fine but wouldn't heat. So once again it was searching the internet and calling the factory. I switched out components between the aft A/C and the one that had the problem so I knew the components were fine. It seems that there's a switch on the board that was not sending 120v to the coil that magnetically pulls the internal plug that allows the system to go into heat mode. So I could buy a new board ($500) or buy a $5 switch that supplies 120v AC to the coil manually. Guess which way I went. If I now want heat, I have to flick a switch under the edge of the seat to activate the coil, it works fine that way.

- The Alternator charging system was not working right. Everything checked out but it overcharged the batteries. As a last resort I loosened all terminals and cleaned them with emery cloth. Lo and behold, the alternator charging problem was cured! I guess the terminals need a cleaning more often than once every 10 years... It also cured the over engine temperature reading on the coolant temperature readout (it's just reads resistance of a coil in the coolant stream, any resistant along the way looks just like an engine higher than normal temperature).

- Shower sump pump stopped working. It hummed away but no water was moving. So I took the pump off and disassembled it. It was nothing more than loose screws holding the pumping section together. After a few moments figuring out how to put it back together (always take a photo before taking anything apart), it now works fine.

- One 4D battery died. We smelled burning rubber and I thought it was the fan belt. After stopping the boat the fan belt looked fine but I tightened it anyway. Later on I had to run wires for the new VHF (discussed below) and had to remove the floor boards and found that the aft 4D battery had been cooked, no electrolyte left! Hummm, perhaps due to the bad charger? I looked for a dockhand to help since they weigh in at 120 lbs, a little much for me. What I paid him was much less than $100/hour and he even took me to the shop to turn in the old one and get the new one.

- Head hard to pump. You have to take it apart and inject lubricant but not just any lubricant. It must be compatible with the rubber seals. I found some and did the deed.

- VHF Radio died. We had two radios, one received on VHF and one transmitted, rather awkward. I ordered a replacement from Amazon and half arrived (the mic) but not the base unit. I found one at West Marine and the installation began. Two days later (!) I found that the wire from the base station to the mic installed on the binnacle in the cockpit was two feet too short! An aside, installation of anything electric on a boat is 5% plugging things in and 95% running wires! There's never enough room for all the wires that need to pass through bulkheads. What to do? I had the old wire with an incompatible connector. Plus, this is no ordinary wire, it has eight wires bundled in one cable and they are very fine. Forget about using crimp terminals. I wound up cutting a section out of the old cable and soldering eight wires on the new cable to eight wires of the old cable and repeated the process at the other end, 32 wires to be soldered. This stuff is about the thickness of a hair, after four hours it was done, three days in all. If I could charge by the hour I would be rich.

- The windlass jammed. Pulling up the anchor one morning the windlass jammed. I switched to down and then up again and it ran for awhile but jammed again, not good on a boat that likes to anchor a lot. The problem continued for several days and was getting worse. I pulled all the chain out and the nylon rode and looked at the hole where the chain descended. It had a plastic sleeve that over time had bulged out into the area where the chain dropped. I took my Dremel and grounded the bulge down. Now the windlass works without jamming. Seems simple when stated but the job took up an entire morning. Plus, you had better have a Dremel on board with an extension.

- Pump out deck fittings frozen. Try as I may, I could not unscrew the two deck fittings for a pump out. They were made of aluminum and the constant use had worn out the cap. I should have used more grease I suppose. I ordered new ones from Beneteau but the installation was not easy on a 12 year old boat. So you get a razor blade and hammer it in from the side to get between the fitting lip and the fiberglass. The factory had glued the fitting quite well to the fiberglass, just another four hour job.

The list above is just for this year, it is beyond the pale to try to cover such events over the life of the boat. A friend of mine has a saying, "It's a boat". After all, it's in a marine environment with salt air, high humidity and lots of shaking going on. Just be prepared to take on such tasks if you want to sail. Note that these problems are minor compared to those cruising on the high seas, after all, we're coastal sailors and don't carry spare engines or anything like the spares needed for ocean crossings.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Savannah - at Thunderbolt at a dock

Ann likes to take photos of clouds for her pastels
What a great day for a ride north. We left with a rising tide, highly recommended for the shallows of Little Mud River and Hell Gate. We negotiated both without a problem. We even discovered a 5.1 MLW path through Hell Gate.

Thunderbolt is a large boat repair facility - really huge!
Jack Cothren, a fellow member of the Poughkeepsie YC, dropped by for a visit and we caught up on the happenings at the club. Then a couple that have been following the blog introduced themselves, Larry and Terry, and we had long chat in the cockpit over wine. They brought Richard and Jill along too and we all shared boating stories. Part of the fun of cruising the ICW (or anywhere) is meeting people along the way with like interests.

At night from off the back of our boat
As good as today was, Friday is not predicted to be so great. Thunderstorms are around all day long but then sometimes the predicted weather never materializes. Although most of the time it's the good weather forecasts that turn out not so good. We'll wait and see in the morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kilkenny Marina -at a dock

Live Oaks of Kilkenny
We got up early so we could negotiate Little Mud River without too much excitement, we were off our anchor by 6:45 am. The river is notorious for shallow water, typically around 4.5 ft which would be pretty dicey with our 4 ft 9 in keel. Getting there was no problem. Jekyll creek is no challenge with a 6 ft tide. Even at Little Mud River we had a little over 5 ft, a breeze. We made such good time that we bypassed the Wahoo Creek anchorage and pressed on to Kilkenny Marina. It's closer to Hell Gate and the time of high tide.

Not much business but the location is handy for us
Kilkenny Marina is out in the boonies. It's surrounded by very old live oaks with lots of hanging moss, very southern. I continue to be fascinated by the way the live oaks grow. They reach a relatively short height but their limbs spread out further than their height. I don't recall any other tree growing so broad. I understand the wood is not good for furniture because the grain swirls, a  feature that makes the limbs strong and suitable for uses of wood requiring great strength. The trees were coveted for the building of ships. Due to the odd shapes of the limbs, some were exact fits for portions of the ships (e.g., the forward part of the keel) and since they were all in one piece, they were the strongest wood available.

We plan on taking a dock at Thunderbolt in Savannah on Thursday for a day, then it's onward to Charleston two days later, we hope. The weather seems to be in good spell for moving north and we intend taking advantage of that, especially after all the bad weather to date.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jekyll Island Anchorage - At anchor

They really couldn't be going through Jekyll at low tide!
This was our vacation day from getting up early to catch the high tides. We didn't get off until around 9:00, headed for the Jekyll Island anchorage. As with all our anchorages, it has easy shore access in the form of a public dock. Not many people use this anchorage because it is charted as too shallow even though Active Captain describes it correctly as having 8 to 12 ft of depth at low tide.

The tide was really low!
Along the way we passed two tugs with dredging pipes between them, one in front to direct the pipes and one in back to negotiate turns. We thought nothing much of it until we saw them approaching the notorious Jekyll passage at low tide! I measured the depth of the channel at 4.5 ft then. I got in my dinghy and followed them thinking that they, perhaps, knew the deep water passage through the shallows. Well, to make a long story short - they plowed their way through. The water behind the rugs, where I was at, was churned up mud. I couldn't find their draft listed on the internet but did see a range of anywhere form 3.5 ft to 15 ft.

Having fun around marker G19, they were stopped several times, the sailboat waited and waited and waited
When I followed them through the channel, I could see they often stopped (or more accurately, were stopped). Their response was to do what we all do, turn up the rev's. Muddy water was spewing out the aft and eventually the tugs with their load slid forward. It was interesting to see them negotiate the turn by marker G19, they took up the entire width of the channel. They did make it through, somewhat to my surprise, but they had a lot of horsepower.

Nice place for us
On Wednesday we have a daybreak start to reach Little Mud River before losing the tide. The river has only 4.5 ft of depth and I would like a little more leeway than trying to pass at dead low. We'll wind up at the Wahoo River anchorage that night and go for Savannah the next day.

And it ended with a nice sunset
One caution today: the Cumberland Divides turn is missing two red markers, R60 and R60A. They are crucial to negotiating the passage safely. I passed through and didn't notice they were missing until I saw 4.5 ft on the depth sounder and this was with a 6 ft tide! I then woke up and slid over to the green side for deeper water. The caution has been posted on Active Captain, see the posting for details.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cumberland Island - Going north!!

Cumberland Island is famous for its free running horses
Monday we left the dock at 6:45 to get an early start on a long day. The forecast was for 11 kt winds so naturally the wind was piping up to 20 kts! All of their forecasts have underestimated the wind every day. The challenge this morning was to back out of slip with a row of boats just behind us and a face dock on our port side which was going to limit our ability to turn sharply to starboard. Oh by the way, the wind was out of the east, pushing us into that face dock. Throw in a little current too and we had a great time leaving. Somehow we made it out without a collision.

There's a National Park station here too, lots of trails and also camping with a beach
As we turned the corner we saw two boats ahead of us. As we passed them they recognized Fleetwing as belonging to Bob423, my handle on Active Captain where I post findings on the shallows on the ICW. They then dropped behind us and followed along the rest of the way to Fernandina. Later on a power boat also joined our floatilla. So now I had to be careful to do everything right or suffer embarrassment!

Finally, we are starting to see decent sunsets
I had been in contact with Taylor Engineering who did a depth survey of the shallow south of Fernandina at the request of the Coast Guard in preparation for rebuoying the area. I used the waypoints today and found the route resulted in 9.5 ft MLW. So now we have two routes which are passable at low tide: the first route I posted on Active Captain and this one I'll pass back to Taylor Engineering.

We pulled into Cumberland Island anchorage a little after 3:00 pm and found it a little rough but it has settled down nicely now. They have a easily accessible dinghy dock which is a huge attraction for us and Hoolie. It's quiet and we will not push tomorrow and settle for the Jekyll Island anchorage which we are fond of. It will put us in position for Mud River with 3 ft of tide and then on to the Wahoo anchorage.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

St Augustine - Still here and a walk through town

Lots of ornaments for your garden
We woke up this morning to a driving rain with winds 20 to 25 kts. Looking on the radar it wasn't due to end for another two hours. We are in the next to last dock in a U shaped portion of the dockage system. With a 20 kt wind pushing us into the "bottom" of the U, it would have been a very difficult exit, especially with two small  boats docked in our way. So we just decided to stay yet another day. After noon time the winds seldom dropped below 20 kt, the anchorage area was all whitecaps. We've never seem such a spat of foul weather! I suppose it's related to the weakening El Nino which still has a punch evidently.

A happy tree?
For those wishing to go outside to head north, the winds have produced 6 to 9 ft waves with an occasional wave to 11 ft, all from the north. Now that's tough sledding. I can't imagine attempting that passage. So there are still a ton of boats holed up waiting for better weather, including us. The St Augustine mooring field and docks were completely filled up over the weekend, no room at the inn. When someone inquired if Fernandina had open docks (the next stop north) the reply was that they were sold out too. However, the weather is supposed to calm down on Monday when we plan on finally heading north.

Here's where all the wind is coming from1
So for entertainment I worked on the windlass. The windlass sleeve which fits into the fiberglass hole where the chain descends into the chain locker had a bulge in it, partially obstructing the drop of the chain and causing it to bind and stopping the windlass. I got out my trusty Dremel which had an extension attached so I could reach the anchor hole sleeve and I ground the bulge out. A hint, if you ever want to cruise the ICW or take your boat more than 50 miles from your marina, be sure to have a Dremel on board, they are lifesavers for all sorts of things. A universal tool for fixing things that go wrong on a boat.

St Augustine sunset
For the rest of the day we decided to just enjoy St Augustine. The day was sunny and warm as long as you stayed out of the 20+ kt winds. So we just strolled downtown and enjoyed the sights. We plan (once again!) to leave at 7:00 am to make the 7:30 bridge opening and hopefully make the Fernandina  anchorage by 3:30 pm. If you have any leverage with the weather gods, please feel free to entreat them for calm weather on Monday..

Saturday, April 16, 2016

St Augustine - I splice in extension for the RAM 3 mike

They came walking down the historic section of town
Since I couldn't get a ready made extension for the RAM 3 mic to radio cord, I decided to splice in a piece of cord from the old mic. I thought it would take perhaps as much as an hour. Well it's a good thing I don't charge by the hour, it took most of the day. The eight wires in the cord are very tiny and hard to manipulate, 32 wires in all. I soldered the connections to be sure of conductivity and used shrink wrap for insulation. All this because Standard Horizon wanted to save $0.50 or so on wire. At least the RAM mic now works at the binnacle.

A proud looking horse, the carriage was hardly in period with its LED lights
When I took Hoolie out for his nightly stroll we came across about two dozen people dressed up in period costumes, early 1800's. St Augustine is the oldest continuous settlement in the US and they have a very active historical society. The thing that impressed me was how complicated the clothes were. It must take a long time to get dressed in the morning.

The winds have not abated. Sitting at the dock at 8:30 it's still blowing 15 to 20 kts. We really, really want to leave Sunday so if we see any window at all we're out of here. We're aiming for Fernandina but we'll stop sooner if the winds continue to be strong. They are reporting 11 ft waves out in the ocean. I don't think anyone is gong north outside.

Friday, April 15, 2016

St Augustine - Pulling wire without success and dinner with Gordon Johnson and Bill

The Bridge of Lions
So I had to drill a new hole in the binnacle base to make room for the new RAM 3, remove wire and then pulled it through all of the obstructions until I reached the bulkhead between the head and the nav station. After an hour of searching for the leading wire I finally located it and pulled it through. However, the great disappointment was that it was two feet short! Standard Horizon provided 23 ft of wire between the radio and the RAM 3 mike but I needed 25 ft! It was rather sad to see the two feet of distance between a successful installation and a failure. West Marine sells an extension for $25 for another 25 feet but it's a special order, days to get in. I called technical support at Standard Horizon to confirm that the wires to the mike only carried DC type voltages. With that it would be simple to cut the extension and use several feet of the old connection to the RAM mike to extend the wire to reach the VHF radio. I plan on doing that Saturday.

Local talent in blue
We had some rain but not to the level predicted. A small craft advisory is still in effect so we'll stay here another day but we do plan on leaving Sunday for Fernandina. We invited Gordon Johnson and Bill over for dinner tonight. He brought shrimp for an appetizer with a bottle of wine and Ann had dinner ready - but first we had to finish the wine! Gordon is selling his sailboat and buying a trawler, goodbye to a great sailor!

Hopefuly we'll be able to leave sometime in the future, Sunday looks okay so far.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

St Augustine - New battery day and Gordon Johnson and Bill visit

Downtown St Augustine turned the old part of town into a pedestrian mall
I called the nearest Interstate battery distributor and they offered to send one to the nearby marine store by noon. A dockhand offered to help remove the old battery and install the new one including using his car to pick up the new one at the marine store, about 1.5 miles away. My helper showed up at 1:00 when he got off form work. Getting the old battery out of the aft cabin was not too hard with two people lifting, likewise putting the new one in. So now I have a new complement of 4D batteries, ready for the trip north.

Gordon Johnson and Bill dropped by for a visit. Gordon had a Beneteau 423 for many years
Next I have to finish installing the new VHF which involves pulling wires through small holes to reach from the binnacle to the nav station where the body of the radio is located. It'll probably take all day, hopefully not. After that comes reworking the chain pipe sleeve on the windlass. The plastic insert has a bulge on one side that shouldn't be there, causing the chain to hang up. After all that, I can rest easy for awhile, I think. At least after cleaning the plastic windows, washing the deck, taking on water and doing a pump out. All part of boating.

We're due for winds greater than 20 kt on Friday and Saturday with rain and thunderstorms. With that we'll stay put until Sunday when the rains stop and it warms up some. Hopefully Fernandina will be within reach, that's our plan.