Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I picked a small bay on the western shore of the Pamlico Sound for my first anchorage, and it was a really good choice - nice and protected, moderately "deep" water (in the sounds 10 feet can be deep water) and tucked in away from any possible traffic. I got to the marker just at sundown, the timing could not have been better, and motored in to anchor. I may have mentioned this before, but I really dislike day markers. I know that lighting every marker would be costly, but in the dark (it was pitch black Thursday night) it is damn hard to see those things. I had to totally rely on my charts, my depth finder and my GPS, and even then I did not see the day markers until morning. One of my biggest fears is running in to a day marker in the dark, and it almost always seems like I reach anchorage right after sundown. Thursday was a short day, almost 8 hrs sailing, and 43.8 miles, of course not all of it in the desired direction, such is sailing.
Christmas day came early, up at 5am, washed up, made tea, and actually toasted some english muffins for breakfast. Felt a bit lonely as I hauled up the anchor, but the adventure beckons, so off I go. The majority of the day passed uneventfully - moderate breeze, average wind about 8 kts, speed just about 4 kts, most of it in a southerly direction, and a good bit of sunshine. Sometime around 2pm I took a good hard look at the GPS and the chart, I needed to decide where to head for the night. Swan Quarter was the original goal, and it was 14 miles away, well more like 17 with the course I was on. Ocracoke was 12.5 miles away, probably more like 15 counting on channels and cutbacks I would have to make to get there, but the wind was really pushing me in that direction. Oriental was 32 miles away, or about 8 hrs, so I pretty much eliminated that as an attainable goal. So, Swan Quarter or Ocracoke? In the end I chose Swan Quarter, the channel was easier to navigate, and it looked like the anchorage would be reasonably protected. I ended up batting .500, it turned out to be an easy sail in, but protected it was not.
As I neared the marker for the Swan Quarter channel I heard a very loud "whoosh" next to the boat. It completely took me by surprise - I was occupied reading - and I jerked around to see what had made the noise. I saw nothing, save a very distinct swirl in the water alongside the boat. Seconds later there was another "whoosh" on the other side, and as I turned, I caught a glimpse of a fin disappearing beneath the waves. Then there were more fins, all around the boat. A large pod of dolphin had decided to pay me a visit and play, there must have been 12 or 15 of them, and they swam alongside, and under, and in front for about 20 minutes. They must have circled around, or there were more than I thought, but I would hear them breach behind the boat, and then they would appear alongside, some would swim under and pop up on the side opposite the one they drove from. Quite a distraction, and very entertaining.
As I turned up the channel to head to Swan Quarter, my friends must have had enough, as I did not see them again once I made my course change. Right about then the rain started to come down, slow at first, then really coming down hard, and it continued that way until I quit for the night. The channel in was fairly wide, it is a main hub for the Ocracoke ferry, and the sail in was pretty easy. However, the anchorage was not nearly as protected as the chart showed, but it was a place to drop the hook, so I did and got the boat secured for the night. I made 42.4 miles in about 10 hours. Not too bad for a days sail, but I was ready to relax a bit and bed down. As I threw together dinner, canned ham and rice for Christmas dinner, the wind began to pick up, and the rain came, it rained buckets full, and I think at one point I heard thunder. Needless to say, I spent a very rough night on the anchor, with the wind howling straight up the channel. Bet it was alot calmer over in Silver Lake, the Ocracoke harbor. I set the anchor alarm on the GPS, that way I'd be alerted if I drifted to far from the set point, but I did not realize that the alarm was set from the point I engaged it, not the point I was anchored at. Duh. So, sometime in the night, well 0330 in the morning actually, I was jolted out of a deep sleep, and a good dream, by a shrieking alarm. I scrambled out of my sleeping bag to check the GPS, only to see that I had swung on an arc around the anchor, and I was now 180 degrees from where I had been, and, over 100 feet from where I had engaged the alarm. The good thing was, the alarm worked, and it got me up, but I could clearly see by the GPS track that I had swung a perfect arc around the anchor. It took a bit, but I finally got back to sleep, and my butt stayed in the sleeping bag until almost 7am.
This morning it was very warm, and after all that rain that brought on a very heavy fog. I fixed tea and another english muffin, and cleaned up the boat some more as I waited for the fog to burn off. I wasn't about to get the dinghy inflated, so I got out the puppy training pads and had a go at trying to get Spook to do her thing on the boat. I'm not sure if it was the puppy pad, or the fact that she had not gone in 48 hrs, but after I went back down below to square things away, she christened the foredeck. I came out and she was looking really guilty, and kept looking towards the bow of the boat. I went up and looked, and sure enough, she finally caught on to doing what I needed her to do, and where it needed to be done. I had to really reassure her that it was ok, and finally after alot of "good dog...good girl" and a bunch of scratching, I think she got the message that all was ok and she wasnt in trouble.
Just about 9 the fog lifted, and off I went again. Destination: Oriental. The western part of the Pamlico Sound has quite a few shoals, I dodged the Middle Ground shoals leaving the Swan Quarter channel, and I took a heading for the Neuse River. Just north of the mouth of the Neuse there is a very long shoal, that reaches way down and blocks the river entrance from the west and north. This is Brant Island Shoal, and it is about 8 miles long. However, in the center it is a bit broken up, and there is a mile or so stretch that has a depth of 7 or 8 feet. If I could make this gap it would save me about 12 miles of sailing down and around. So taking really careful bearings, and watching my latitude and longitude really closely, I made for the gap. As I approached I must have second guessed myself a dozen times, but, there are a ton of places I have sailed in the past b2 weeks that are less than 8 feet all the time. So saying a quick prayer, and holding my breath as I crossed, I made my way over the bar. I watched the depth gauge like a hawk, ready to wheel her over and head out if it got too shallow, but I went from 15, to12, 10, to 8, to 9, 10...and I was across! I had made a huge gamble based on the charts, and it paid off. After making the gap I sailed on about another mile or so before changing course and heading for the river. I crossed paths with another sailboat at this point, and raised them on the radio. It was the Eastern Pearl out of Newport, NC, and we chatted for sometime, and they commented on the fact that I was under sail. I bit my tongue, as I have done my share of motorsailing, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have purely motored and not augmented wind power. They had gone over to Ocracoke for the holiday, to see how the islanders did Christmas, and confirmed that Silver Lake was a great anchorage through the storm. Maybe next time I won't second guess my sentimental nature and will go for an anchorage that has personal appeal as well as being practical.
The rest of the sail was uneventful, just sailing up the Neuse, until I got to Oriental. The channel there is very narrow, but also well marked (it is the sailing capital of NC, as all the street signs proclaim) and I made my way into the harbor- in the dark, again - and tied up at a very accessible dock. As soon as I tied up I was greeted by a liveaboard, and after a bit of conversation, she pointed out where the public dock was, and suggested I walk up there to scope it out. I took Spook, and we walked a few blocks and around the corner, and there was the public dock, nestled right in among the local shrimping fleet. Spook did her thing, and back we went to the boat. It was alot closer via water than by land (that has to be a first) and we were tied up to the dock in no time. Out for another walk, and the nearest pay phone, where I called Mom and had her relay to all. 48.4 miles for the day, in just over 10 hours. I think that puts the three day total at roughly 135 miles, not to bad for going from sun up to just after sundown.
I am going to spend a day here in Oriental, and then head for Beaufort/Morehead City, where I hope to be able to get a new phone. That puts me leaving Oriental Monday morning, and hopefully Beaufort that evening, or Tuesday on the outside.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
This is the part of the trip that causes me just a bit of anxiety, going out into the open water alone. In reality, the ocean should be much smoother than the sounds, the waves out there have more distance between them, and, a 5 foot wave on the ocean is a smooth rolling wave, whereas in the Bay or any of the sounds, where it is much shallower, they are steep and sometimes breaking waves. The Wikipedia definition of a sound is: "In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait).
There is little consistency in the use of 'sound' in English-language ."
All I know from my experience that here in NC they are relatively large, shallow bodies of water, most are not deeper than 25 feet, and many parts of all of them are much shallower, and not navigable by my boat. I am all topped off with water and fuel again, the pantry is full, and my clothes are all washed and clean. Gary and Alice had ordered me a pair of waterproof sailing gloves from Defender Marine, so between those and the gloves Beth gave me I should be able to stay much warmer than I have been so far.
Last night was frigid, when I got on board it was 38 in the cabin, and the temp was falling. When I woke this morning, the cabin temp was around 36, outside temp was much lower, there was a very thick frost - and - there was ice on the water here in Manteo Harbor. I took Spook in for a walk and to get more kerosene for the stove and heater, and I noticed as I dinghied in that there was a nice thin film of ice from about 50 yards out on into the dock, and it got thicker the closer I got to the pier. I walked about 6 miles today going out to see if I could find a burner for the stove, as before, no luck, perhaps I can find one in Florida.
Right now I am in the Coffeehouse On Roanoke Island, using their net, enjoying a cup of really good coffee, and getting a bit warmed up. My friend Ali and I have been here a few times, and in addition to good coffee they have just incredible hot chocolate. I've had just a few cups of that since I have been here, does wonders on cold days. The clerk here has been extremely helpful, after hearing of my tale of walking all the way to the other end of the island, she started to call around trying to help me find the stove burner, again, with no luck. The thrift store here had a stove, but no burners, so close, but.....
Today I made a few repairs to the stove and heater, and cleaned out all the burners. God knows I am going to need them working well tonight, but I think this is the last bit of really cold weather for a few days. But, in a week or so cold weather will be mostly a memory, and I will be in a much warmer place.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
I think I would rather sail in freezing precipitation than cold rain, but I think if we get precip today it is just going to be cold cold rain. I am making a huge thermos of hot tea, and then going to go shower and get the boat ready to go. Check back in later when I have net again.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I have to back up a bit, I think I had reported earlier that there had been a few problems with my little Cruise and Carry outboard - yes that is the brand name - and it was not working right. Monday was plenty sunny and pretty warm, so I sat out in the cockpit and tore down the little outboard while I waited for my friend Ali to get off of work. Turns out my fear of a destroyed lower unit were unfounded, there was a bushing that was worn and had allowed one of the gears to slip, but by shimming out the bushing I was able to get it all back together and working. The outboard is pretty simple, Cruise and Carry uses a Tohatsu (ok I am sure I spelled that wrong) weed eater motor for the power plant, and a very simple gear set up for the lower unit. Problem is, they are no longer making these outboards, so if the actual engine goes I could probably put any weed eater engine on it, but I don't know where I would get parts for the lower unit. (gearing that drives the propeller)
Ali came down to see me off, and I weighed anchor and set out in the cool foggy morning. Once I got out of the channel in Shallowbag Bay, I raised sail and began my journey across the sound to Edenton. It was very quiet in the fog that morning, just me, the pelicans, and the water. A very different day and a very odd feeling, being out there and not being able to see a single thing. As the day wore on the fog burned off, and by noon it was fairly clear. I was followed by a lone pelican for a while, he startled me at first, gliding in and splashing down right beside the boat. Out there sailing most of your attention is focused forward and on your sails, you expect to hear anything approaching from the rear, so visual scans to the rear are not near as often as to the sides and front. So here comes this pelican, out of no where, splashing down beside me and scaring the bejesus out of me. I sailed on away from him, and when I was about 100 yards or so away, he got airborne, and flew up beside me, and splashed down again. This went on for about 30 minutes, I would move forward, he would catch up, and then I would leave him again. Kind of like a game of leap frog.
The wind on Tuesday was about as contrary as can be, I needed to go west across the length of the sound, and wouldn't you know it, the wind was out of the west. I made very little headway, tacking back and forth, as usual I sailed way more than the ground I made in the direction I wanted. I think I did just about 40 miles in a bit over 8 hours. Not bad speed, just not where I wanted to be. I anchored in the mouth of the Little River on the northern edge of the sound, maybe 5 miles southwest of the Pasquotank River, and about 20 miles west of Manteo. I was really protected there, and I suppose I anchored right around 6pm. Dinner Tuesday was a version of Potato Soup, minus the cheese, so it was good and warm, but a bit plain. However, it was simple to fix, so I didn't have to wait too long to eat.
I was awakened on Wednesday morning by a halyard slapping the mast at around 0430. It was cool on the boat, around 40 degrees, but the sleeping bag was mighty warm. However, as hard as I tried I could not get back to bed after taking care of the line, so I fixed breakfast (hot tea and a bagel) and brewed a thermos full of tea for the day's sail. I had about 28 miles to go, but the weather radio said I was looking at winds from the north/northwest, the right direction finally, and it was going to blow around 15-25. Perfect wind for a quick trip to Edenton! I motored off anchor, as I needed to charge the batteries, and as I raised sail, the sunrise was phenomenal. One of the best I have seen so far.
As usual, Gary and Alice are great hosts, and we went directly to lunch as soon as Spook did her thing at the waterfront. We went over to Mamacita's, a Mexican place right here in town, where we have eaten so many times before, after days spent working on Arden before she went into the water. It has been a nice visit, and a bit of a stroll down memory lane. Tomorrow is forecast to be plenty cold, somewhere in the low forties is the high, so my sail back down the sound is going to be a bit brisk to say the least. From Edenton I am going down the Albemarle Sound, into the Roanoke Sound - which separates Roanoke Island from the mainland, and then into the Pamlico Sound, which will take me to the Neuse River. From the Neuse I take Adams Creek Canal down into the Newport River, which will lead me to Beaufort and then out to the Atlantic. I suppose in a week or so I will be there, Christmas will be in Beaufort, or just off the Carolina coast, weather permitting.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Hi Spook - make sure he pulls over for you more often!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Being rocked around like that can make for some very good sleep though, I think I have forgotten to mention that here in the blog. Being tied up to a dock can sometimes lead to some very odd motion in the boat, if the waves are coming from the side, or on the quarter, the boat gets this unruly motion to her, very unnatural and very unsettling. On the hook it is a more natural motion, the boat is usually bow in to the waves and wind, providing they are coming from the same direction, and current isn't an issue, and there is a really nice forward to aft rolling motion to the boat. Makes for some really good sleep.
Beth came down today to help me pack up and clear out the storage unit here in town, the last task I needed to finish before I headed out. She couldn't get the horse trailer out of the mud with her truck-it has rained a ton over the past 2 weeks, so she is going to come back down next week and clear it all out.
I managed to get a few things done on the boat today as well, she is completely topped off with fuel-and-I have a spare 10 gallons on deck as well. The compass has a new light, the bottom was always lit, but there were no lights on the top. That has been remedied with a red LED, we will see how that works out, because before it was very hard to view the compass card and see where you were actually heading at night. Tonight I stow gear, put up the lee cloths for the berths, and then I am out to Coasters for a few beers with my friend Ted.
After beers it will back to the boat to rack out, and then reveille at 5am...and off to Manteo shortly there after. Departure time: 0800.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
When Spook and I were caught out in that storm a few days ago, the entire contents of the cabin seemed to end up on the cabin floor. No matter how well you think you have stowed everything, something gets over looked, or something breaks loose and invariably it ends up on the floor. During that last storm lots of things ended up on the floor, and I had to rethink how I was storing things. One thing that I had thought I had tucked away quite well was my spare change cup - it was in a cubby hole in the galley, with the other cups and dishes, and previously they had all stayed pretty much secure and in place. Not this time though, the rest of the dishes remained stationary, but the change cup seemingly exploded, sending nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies everywhere. It seems that every time I look for something, or clean a bit, I find a bit more change. At first obviously it was lots of change in large deposits, now it has tapered to a dime here, a penny there, but I think there is a lot of unaccounted for loose change loitering about in nooks and crannies. I know the cup is not nearly as full now as it was before.
Saturday (yesterday) was cold, dreary and wet, it rained almost all day, and when it was not raining, it was still almost as miserable as it was when it was pouring down. I took the time yesterday to totally tear down and clean out the components of the cabin heater, which had burped, fizzled, smoked and made a complete mess out of the cabin on Friday night. I cleaned the heating element, the nozzle, blew out the fuel lines, drained and cleaned the fuel tank and cleaned out the fuel filter in the line. I found a bit of junk in the fuel tank and lines, and I hoped that I had at the least done something to improve the performance of the heater. I did. Tonight it is extremely cold, well - very cold, ok - just downright cold for me. I suppose the thermometer is hovering right around freezing, but that is just too cold for my taste. I refueled the heater, and fired it off, and it is performing spectacularly. I am under total kerosene power tonight, with the exception of the computer and the anchor light, all the cabin light is being provided by kerosene lantern, and the heat is by kerosene as well. Quite cozy on here to be honest, is much warmer inside than out on deck.
Despite being cold, it was a beautiful day today. Very sunny, quite a contrast to yesterday. I got a few things done on deck, but mostly it was a day of socializing and planning: comparing notes and ideas with some of the folks here that have made the trip south, and I have solidified my plan and my route. I have to stay in Ecity until Wednesday, when Beth will help me close down my storage unit here. I will weigh anchor, and sail out of Elizabeth City on Thursday, destination Manteo. Depending on the wind, I will make Manteo on Friday. Friday and/or Saturday will be spent being a tourist, as I have never been to Manteo, and then possibly having a cup of coffee with my friend Ali, who happens to live in Manteo. I will leave Sunday open, but when I leave Manteo, I think I will make a fast trip up to Edenton, see Gary and Alice once more, and then a day later, I will head back to Manteo, where I will head down the Pamlico sound to the Neuse River. Up the Neuse to Adams Creek Canal, down the canal to Beaufort/Morehead City, and then out into the Atlantic to the Florida coast. This route will eliminate miles of motoring down canals and rivers, and will allow me to sail most of the way - conserving quite a bit of fuel.
Tonight was the annual Lighted Sail Parade, as usual it was a cold night on the water, but this year I did not sail Arden in the parade, all my strings of lights are in storage, and even though they are Christmas colors, I don't think that red, green and white running lights count as sail parade material. Because it was originally scheduled for last night and wast postponed until tonight due to weather, the sail parade did not have nearly the number of boats in it as it did last year, and the number of spectators was lower as well. Of course, the very low temperatures may have had something to do with that as well.
I also made a new discovery by accident, and it did involve an accident as well. When lighting kerosene cabin lights on cold nights, keep the flame low initially, or you are liable to overheat the cold glass chimney, and cause it to break. I made this discovery the hard way, and am now going to be looking for a new chimney for a little Perko cabin lamp.
So here it is, Sunday night, the temps in the lower 30's, and I am nice and warm on the boat. Not a bad weekend, but a definitely a busy week ahead.