Saturday, January 9, 2010

Waiting and Walking

Yesterday I had intended on heading a bit further down the ICW, but the local West Marine had to order the chart I needed, so I was sort of stuck here in Charleston, at least for one more day. So I took advantage of that bit of unexpected down time and cleaned the boat up a bit, and realized that when I finally get to a warmer place I am really going to have to tear the boat apart and clean it, the stove and the heater have put a coating of soot and smoke all over everything, me included. So it looks like I am going to have to do a spring cleaning fairly soon, I'm not sure how much more of that I can stand. I am really contemplating either rebuilding the stove and the heater, or replacing both. The problem is, they both work, although not as well as they could, and are both original to the boat, so I have a bit of sentimental ties to them.

So Spook and I went on walk about yesterday while we waited for the chart. It was a pretty nice day out, not too cold, brisk would describe it best, and there was lots of sunshine. We headed down towards the Battery and Battery Park, and had a fine walk, about 4 miles or so of walking. Lots of really nice, huge older homes, some dating back to and predating the Civil War. Quite a trip we had. The park down there is an off leash park, so Spook had a chance to get off the leash and run a bit, which I am sure really made her day, back at Calvert Marina she was rarely on the leash, but so far for most of this trip she has been totally on the leash. So was a good break for both of us. Notice the palm trees in the pictures I took. What about palm trees says cold? Not a thing - I would pick the coldest winter in 20 years to come visit.

I had not heard from West by 3, so I called them, and they confirmed that the chart was in. I didn't press them on what time it had come in, as I was supposed to be called when it did, and so I asked the folks at Charleston City Marina if I could get a ride out there to get it. The office staff did even better than giving me a ride, there was a driver near there, so they just sent him from his last stop over to West to pick it up. There we are back to the hospitality thing.

So I sit here this morning, thinking about whether I should head out a bit later this morning or not. Yesterday would have definitely been the day to go, it was much warmer and there was more sunshine, and I am feeling just a bit lazy. This morning it was 24 degrees outside, 38 degrees inside, and it has taken me a bit to warm up, and I'm not sure I want to brave the cold yet again. I am pretty sure in the end I will knuckle down and raise anchor, but I know that if I do go onward today, it will not be all that far or for all that long. I need to get fuel, and as it turns out the next marina down (Ross Marine, ICW mile marker 476) does have the cheapest fuel prices around, $2.55 per gallon as opposed to $2.98 a gallon here.

I checked the fuel level yesterday, and I am down to 6 inches of fuel, there is no gauge for the fuel level so I have to measure it. That makes 12 inches of fuel used since the 29th of Dec. If the tanks were perfectly square it would make calculations easier, but they slope on the bottom, so even though 18 or 19 inches equals 40 gallons, 6 inches does not equal 13.3 gallons. Probably more like 10 gallons. I did a bit of calculating, and I have gone 181 miles on just about 28 gallons of fuel. On the surface that does not sound so good, 6.5 miles (nautical miles) per gallon. However, what that really translates to is .69 gallons per hour, and most of those hours at just over cruising speed, which I figure is actually pretty good. I usually try to stay at 1800-2000 rpm, but following Clay on Gemini I have had to boost that a bit to 2200 rpms for most of the day. So overall I suppose my fuel economy has not been too bad.

So do I stay or do I go? Not really sure at this point, but I suppose I will have to make up my mind in the next few hours. Maybe while I wait I'll bake some cookies (seriously) as I am using the oven to help heat the boat this morning. Did I mention it was cold?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Southern Hospitality and Making Money

I am still in Charleston today, it is a very nice, although expensive city, full of history and interesting places to go. Usually being on the boat means I am often on foot when ashore, but the Charleston City Marina has a shuttle service that will ferry you around town to various destinations - today for me it was West Marine. I went to West for charts, I had not planned on being this far south and still in the ICW, and as such my collection of charts does not cover the territory ahead. Heck, if I had not been following Clay and Mary, my ability to chart where I was headed would have ended back at the North Carolina state line. My intent was to put out at Morehead City, then at Cape Fear, but the weather was not good and getting colder by the day, so common sense prevailed and I continued to motor south in the ditch.

Back to the story at hand. So Charleston is this grand historic town, lots of very old homes, Ft. Sumter where the War of Northern Aggression (we fired the first shots, so how were they the aggressors?) otherwise known as the Civil War, began. Then there is the open air market on Market Street (where else would it be) and all the fine shops and restaurants on King Street. Quite an interesting place. Lots of very nice, very big boats at the marina, and lots and lots of very friendly folks. Southern Hospitality might be somewhat of a cliche, but here in Charleston it is alive and well. I was at West Marine today, and I had called the marina to ask the shuttle driver to come back and get me. He was busy, so the office manager drove out and picked me up. Not only that, but while I was waiting for my ride, another customer had heard that I was at the marina, and he offered me a ride, as he was going right by there. I graciously declined, as the office manager was en route, but how often do people go out of their way like that? Not only that, but upon hearing that the charts I needed would not be in until tomorrow after 3, the office manager offered to drive me out to get them after he got off of work, since the shuttle usually does not go to West after the scheduled 11 o'clock run. I am betting if I ask they will take me anyway, that is just how things are around here.

The blog is making money from the ads you see sprinkled around the page. To be exact, $3.69 so far, since we added the ads and I really started writing. For each view of the ads, or for each ad that is on the page, we make a few pennies. So far it is enough to buy one gallon of diesel. Perhaps in time I may have enough to buy a tank of diesel, or maybe groceries, or even a few beers. So please pass the word, as the more readers I have, the more pennies that come my way.

There have also been over 430 readers so far, from something like 11 states, most are from the DC, VA and MD area, but there are a couple of followers in NC, and some from MN, CA, and of all places, Alaska.

Today in addition to my trip to West, I worked on a few things around and about the boat, most notably the windvane, which is finally repaired and back in operation. It has been a long time coming, a bit of work here, a bit of work there, but it is an essential piece of gear once I do go outside and start sailing open waters. That may be as soon as Monday or Tuesday, I have been cautioned against going through Georgia by several boat hands, watermen, and knowledgeable folks. Believe it or not, there are 9 foot tides in GA, something I was unaware of until a few days ago. That means 2 things to me - strong currents in the ICW, that may or may not be in my favor, and, sections of the waterway that are impassable by Arden at low tide. So I am thinking about going outside from Beaufort (in NC it is Bo-fort, in SC it is Bewfert) which will make for a 152 mile trip from Port Royal Sound (Bewfort) to St. Augustine. That will have me passing that summer vacation spot I remember so well, Parris Island. The temps are supposed to be in the mid to upper 50's next week in Bewfert, and higher in FL. So if the wind and waves are moderate, and there is not a gale scheduled, I will probably make that passage, and it should take me about 30 hours or so to do it. We will see when I get there.

And lastly, just when I thought I had reached the deep south, they have palm trees for cryin out loud, I get caught up in this brutal cold snap that just won't go away. Today it warmed up a bit, it was 39 degrees on the boat, but, tomorrow, we are supposed to get snow, just like everyone else.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Photo Updates

I have updated the Sunrise Sunset Album, and if you double click on the picture it will lead to a Picassa Web Album. Once in Picassa Web, you can choose to look at the pictures on the map in Google Earth, and see where they were taken. Sounds complicated, but is fairly easy, and you can track the progress of Arden on the map, with pictures. I think I was able to link the picture below with the web album as well.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Day With Nature

I had a great time today observing nature today as I motored yet again down the ICW, I have always been observant, but there is much more to see at 5kts than there is at 65 mph, especially when you are the one normally behind the wheel. During this 49 mile trip from Georgetown to Isle of Palms I had plenty to see as I made my way a bit more south.

The most obvious wildlife you will see along the ICW are the birds. I have seen so many species of birds as I have sailed and motored - egrets, cranes, geese, loons, the ever present pelican, and today, a bald eagle. Well this one was not bald, he was a juvenile, but it was a bald eagle none the less. This particular eagle almost became a statistic though, as he just about flew right into my rigging, and just barely cleared the mast after he had corrected his flight path.
I have also observed some pretty funny behaviour among birds as well. Remember a few weeks ago the pelican that followed me for a mile or so on the Albemarle Sound? Well it happened again today, this odd fellow would swoop in beside me and land inches from the boat, and then let me get 100 yards or so away, and then come play catch up. This has happened on more than these two occasions. I am not sure if it is a game to them, if they are settling beside the boat thinking of a free fish scrap meal, or if the boat wake gives them a calm spot in the water to rest. I really have no idea, and if anyone knows, please let me know.

I have also seen alot of odd nesting or gatherings of birds - pelicans will group together in the shelter of a dune or bush when it is windy, all crowded together and ducked down, just barely out of the water, but out of the direct force of the wind. There are also certain docks that just seem to attract everyone, kind of like happy hour at the neighborhood bar.

And of course, there are the dolphin. I think I passed 5 pods of them today, from what I can see, they congregate in the inlets, there must be something about how the fish move with the tide or something. But again I was teased and toyed with, and my boat was great entertainment for them. For whatever reason though, they like the stern of my boat or amidships, because that is where they always breach. I am kind of fortunate with that, because if they were up at the bow, there would be no way for me to get pictures.

There was a ton of other scenery, and lots of great photos today, I am going to include some random ones from today, including some of the outrageously big houses that can be found in the Carolina Low Country, as they call it around here. There is a shot of a single car ferry that goes back and forth from one side of the canal to the other - about 100 yards - and one of a lone stand of palm trees on an island along the way. The one with the stranded boat was of a small inlet that was home to 4 stranded boats, kind of like the Sanford and Son of fishing vessels.

Isle of Palms

Now doesn't that just bring to mind images of sand, surf and palm trees? And that one lost ingredient - warmth. This morning I am just about to set off from Georgetown, SC, and the next stop is Isle of Palms, which is about 5 miles north of Charleston. There is a drawbridge just north of Charleston that has an odd opening schedule, it does not open between 4 and 6 PM, and that is about when we would get there. So instead of pushing too hard and ending up in the busy Charleston harrbor in the dark, we are going to pull up early and stay in Isle of Palms.

The temps continue be absolutely arctic, this morning my thermometer out on deck read 24, and it was 38 in the cabin when I woke up. Luckily the sleeping bag is really really warm. The record high for the day was 79, and the record low here was 16. I wish we were experiencing the high, but I am glad we are not experiencing the record low, it is plenty cold here as it is. Heck, right now I'd be ecstatic if we could reach the average daily temp of 59.

Georgetown is an old southern port city, and the entire downtown is a historic district, with lots of very old homes and business buildings. It was also a huge rice producing area, and there are still quite a few rice plantations in operation. It was very enjoyable to walk around town, and most of the folks here are very nice. Yesterday morning I asked the dockmaster at Harbor Walk Marina where I could get kerosene and where the nearest laundromat was. He gave me directions to the filling station, and then told me to use the laundry at the marina. I explained I was out on the hook, and visiting with Clay and Mary who were docked. He said not to worry, go ahead and use the facilities at the marina. I thought that considering I was not tied up there, that that offer was really nice, and it was typical of my experience here.

Off we go again, in search of warmer temps. From what I gather, if it remains the way it is, and it will for a few more days, it just might be well into Florida before we warm up at all.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sailing and Camping

Sailing aboard Arden is alot like camping - relatively primitive accommodations - she has a diesel fired stove and oven, much like a camp stove but with an oven, a diesel fired heater, and a head that uses a hand pump to flush. In order to have hot water of any type for any use, I have to heat it on the stove, not a huge task, because right now it serves to heat the cabin, but not nearly as convenient as having hot water at the turn of a faucet. To bathe I pretty much do a bucket bath - boil water on the stove, dump it and some cold water in a bucket, and wash down with soap and a hand cloth. I pretty much do the same to wash hair, but as it is so cold I have been washing hair every 3 days or so. I suppose in ways it is good that it is so cold, I am not sweating and really not getting dirty, so this type of washing up seems to be ok for now. Once I get to Florida I do have one of those hang up solar shower bags, so I will have the luxury of daily hot showers. And of course, once in Florida the water will hopefully be warm enough to swim in, so mother ocean just may be my bathtub.

Cooking is much the same as camping, with the added benefit of the oven, most folks dont have an oven when they camp. I have baked bread, potatoes and I even twice baked the potatoes once, although I will admit, most of my cooking on the trip so far has been extremely rudimentary - potato soup and spaghetti is about as adventurous as I have gotten so far. Traveling with Clay and Mary has definitely spoiled me though, not having to cook and having meals that are more than one dish will just be one more reason I will miss them when we part ways.

Sleeping in the cold weather on the boat is not as bad as most folks would imagine, I have 2 great sleeping bags aboard, and after running the diesel heater and getting the cabin warm I just pile into a sleeping bag and settle in for the night, I am usually quite toasty in my government issue sleeping bag, the new ones are much warmer than the ones I had so long ago in the Marine Corps.

I have racked up a total of 702 miles to date, not as far as I could have gone, and more miles on the engine than I would like, but I have definitely made good progress, despite all the delays that I created while visiting. I will say though that we - Clay, Mary and I - are not the last of the snow birds though, despite our respective late starts. Today I was passed by a really nice sail boat out of Annapolis - The S/V Truant - homeport Vail Colorado. Yesterday was the S/V Firewater, also out of Annapolis. So far I am the only one single handing it, yes, it would be nice to have a human companion to share the sailing with - no offense Spook, but you aren't that good at the tiller - but I am not sure I would want to share my boat with anyone, unless it was someone I knew well and trusted. I can't imagine making this trip with a pick-up crew, such as the ones on, only to find that I can't stand to be in that close proximity to them.

So alone I go, as I have with most of my sailing so far. This morning I woke up in Murrell's Inlet, SC, and later today will find our 2 boats in Georgetown, SC, from what we have seen on the net and read, it is a very nice little town, I will update when I get there.