Saturday, January 16, 2010

Florida At Long Last...Ahhhhh Warm...

Yesterday was January 15th, and I suppose that makes it day 45 of this journey, and a landmark day at that - I am now in Florida. After sailing from Beaufort, SC on the morning of the 14th - down the Port Royal Sound, out of Beaufort proper, passing Port Royal, Parris Island and Hilton Head - I entered the Atlantic and turned south. We had chosen a great day to head out. The air was warm and was supposed to remain warm all day and into the night. The ocean was calm, glass like with almost no swell. The wave height was measured at one foot, but stretched out over swell it was amazingly flat. Of course that also equates to no wind, and no wind meant motoring. When I reached the ocean I was met by more dolphin, probably 50 or so of them in large pods, as usual my camera was not fast enough to catch some of the more acrobatic things they were doing, but I did see wild dolphin leaping and playing, coming clear of the water and obviously enjoying themselves and entertaining me. I think I may have even seen a whale, but not being 100% sure, I'll chalk it up as one more dolphin. I tried to get Spook out on deck to see what her reaction would be to them, but she was having none of it, she much preferred to stay below in the nest she has made on the port berth. Spook is a great boat dog, but so far not much of a sailing dog, well motoring dog anyway, but hopefully that will change as we do more sailing and less motoring.

The passage yesterday was the longest one I have done yet, both in distance and in time awake at the helm. I had reassembled the windvane, but it is of no help when motor sailing, the prop wash kicks it to one side and it does not work. I made 128 nautical miles in 22 hours, awake the entire time, assisted by lots of tea and hot coffee.

I cleared Hilton Head at 10:42 and was out of the Port Royal channel by 11:30. Turning south, I headed towards the Savanna, GA entrance marker, my first waypoint. Despite the fact there was little wind, I raised sail in an effort to catch any small breeze there might be, and off I went, Florida bound. I had been communicating with Clay and Mary all morning, and they were a good bit behind me, as they had a few things to do before getting underway and left a few hours after I did. They make better time than I do, and we knew they would catch up with me sometime during the day.

By the time I reached the Savanna entrance mark, sometime around 14:30, I could see Clay and Mary in the distance. It was here that I saw the only 2 ships I would see all day, or thankfully, all night. In 2 or 3 more hours Clay had caught up and passed me, but then throttled back to stay with me. I think they are starting to feel the expense of burning diesel, not as much as I do, but then they burn a bit more than I do as well. We motored on through the afternoon and by dusk we were not too far north of St Catherine's Sound and Brunswick, GA. There was an incredible sunset that evening, and the camera did not come close to capturing how beautiful it really was. We passed a lone shrimp boat as the sun went down, and I wondered what he thought working away, as we went past obviously on vacation.

I set the tiller lock, sometimes it will hold Arden on course for very long periods of time, and went below to get the stove going and make some coffee and heat up a bit of dinner. I had to go up every few minutes to check on the heading (I am definitely going to get a cheap compass to install on the chart table so I don't have to be on deck to check bearing) and then back down below to fix coffee and sandwiches. PB&J on homemade bread is a great cruising food.
As night fell the wind picked up a bit, and I was able to gain another half knot or so, and was averaging 5.5 knots. Clay and I obviously were holding the same course, he was motoring only, and around 23:30 I caught up to him, and then passed him briefly, until he throttled up and passed again. I think Clay likes being in the lead, it doesn't so much matter to me, but his boat will go about 2 knots faster than Arden, and I am now in fuel conservation mode.

Sometime around 2am I noticed I was taking on water and turned on the bilge pump. I began investigating where the water was coming from, my first inclination was that the seal on the raw water pump was leaking again, and I was right. It wasn't leaking too bad, but a constant flow over hours of motoring had filled up the space below the deck, and it had started to come up onto the floor. The bilge pump kept up with it for a bit, and then it quit. I went down below again, and found that the bilge pump wires had broken, and once getting that fixed, that the check valve in the hose or the vacuum breaker had gotten clogged, and my electric bilge was useless. So I pumped it out by hand, and then figured it would at least be morning before I would need to do it again.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, it was dark, not alot to see other than the lights of Gemini up ahead, so I read, drank coffee and tended sail. As the night went on the wind picked up slowly, and by 04:30 I was making pretty good time. We reached the channel to St. Mary's around 05:30, we were now in Florida waters! Despite the fact that we had changed plans yesterday around noon and were planning on making it to St. Augustine, Clay turned in to the channel and I followed. I raised them on the radio, and they pretty much said fatigue had started to set in and they had decided to pull in to Fernandina Beach. FL to stop and rest. With the leak I had going, I wasn't going to argue, I think I would have been able to make it to St. Augustine, but I would have had to pump the bilge again, and the water pump did need to be fixed as well.

Going down the channel into the St Mary's river I was on a beam reach, the wind coming directly from the starboard side, and I really began to run. Arden sails so well on a beam or broad reach, and I was making over 7 knots with the engine running, and over taking Clay again. I passed Clay, and then cut the engine, and sailed the rest of the way in. The water front at Fernandina Beach is very industrial, and not all that scenic from what I can tell. We took Gemini and Arden through the mooring field that belongs to the marina, and anchored. By the time I got my anchor set, Clay and Mary had disappeared below, and I figured they were down for a nap.

I did not feel I had that luxury, as I had a bad bilge pump and a leaking engine, so I went to work fixing those problems. Not too big a task really, and in about 2 hours I had everything fixed and back together, and had started to clean up the boat. After a couple hours of that I looked out to see Gemini motoring past, so I gave them a call. Clay and Mary figured I was asleep, and were going to head down the ICW to Jacksonville. They have bit of a schedule to keep, meeting friends in Miami at the 1st of February, so I bid them goodbye, thanked them for all they had done, and wished them a safe voyage. My sailing partners were gone.

Spook and I did a little bit of walk about in Fernandina Beach, a nice enough little town with a nice downtown and marina, and a historic district that makes up most of the downtown area. We stopped in the hardware store, which was quite pricey but had a very friendly staff, and got the lowdown on where the gas station, the grocery and the nearest burger place was. I was completely over dressed for the weather, and got quite warm with a sweater and jacket on long johns on.

So it is now Saturday morning, a warm rainy day in Florida, I think it was 60 degrees when I got up this morning. Sure beats waking up in a cabin that is just a few degrees warmer than freezing. I need to take Spook in for a walk, then it is time to find a coffee shop and publish this blog, and catch up on all the news.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bewfort South Carolina

OK, I know that I misspelled Beaufort in the title, but, I am trying to emphasise that the folks here in Beaufort do not live in Bowfort, and they will let you know that in a heart beat. They are quick to let you know that Bowfort is in NC, and Bewfort is where we are in SC. Did ya know that a whole bunch of Forrest Gump was filmed here? Or that the seeds of Secession were sown here, more so than in Charleston? Or that 24 years ago I stepped off a train here, and got on a bus on my way to Parris Island, which by the way, I will be passing in the morning.

This town has a ton of history, and at least in the downtown historic district, seems to have many more large, fancy southern houses than does Charleston. I hope to have battery enough on the laptop to get pictures loaded on this post, if there are no pictures when this publishes, it is because I ran out of battery, and didn't get them loaded in time.

I am anchored off of the Beaufort City Marina, and have been in and out of their docks to walk Spook, do laundry, shower, and just be a tourist. Lots of walking, yesterday it was about 4 miles or more, just ambling around, looking at history, taking pictures, and then making my way out to the Piggly Wiggly for a few food items - need more butter to make more cookies.

Again I have been impressed with southern hospitality. The dock master didn't mind me tying up to the fuel dock, they aren't busy now, so as long as I was not hanging out 24/7 he didn't mind. I got the code for the showers, the laundry was open to the public, and Spook had a great chance to run and get her walk in. Really nice facility here, but my gosh the tidal current here is something else.

Had a bit of trouble with the outboard again last night, I knew my Manteo outboard fix was kind of a temperary patch, so now I have to formulate a more long term fix, and get it all back together again. I've been rowing my butt off against this current, I almost need to time my trips to shore with the tides, and man I am getting a work out. I have all the parts ready to put back on the windvane, so it all gets mounted today in preparation to getting underway tomorrow or in the next day or 2. I may go down stream just a bit farther to Port Royal, but whether I do or I don't, once leave Port Royal Sound, I will be Florida bound - on the outside. Right now as it stands the winds are slight and will be tomorrow, and the seas are calm. North East winds Friday, and East winds on Sat, so the seas will be building - 2-3 foot on Friday and 3-4 feet or so on Saturday.

Clay and Mary caught up with me late yesterday afternoon, I got here right around noon, they arrived just after 4. We had breakfast together this morning, and Clay is trying to get his auto helm fixed so they can go out. I think we will go out around the same time, safety in numbers kind of thing, and it is reassuring to know that there is another boat nearby if you have troubles. I will be fairly close to the coast, so hopefully (crossing fingers) I will have cell signal.

So before I lose battery power, I am going to be underway again shortly, I will make a flurry of phone calls before I head out, to let those that need to know that I am indeed on the way.
The pictures shown here have been loaded after the fact, in another coffee shop, after a long day of working on the boat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Boat Bread, Moving On...

I left Charleston yesterday on a low tide, hoping to get a boost up Wapoo Creek and get to the fuel dock a bit faster than I would have without the assist. That was a great strategy on the surface, but once I got to the fuel dock at Ross Marine it kind of backfired just a bit - the current was so strong that Arden would not maneuver at the dock, in fact just she just about got stuck between 2 docks. The weekend security guy there, David, gave me a hand, and we were able to warp Arden in along the dock with alot of effort, the current was pushing against the keel, and it was alot of force to overcome. I had the boat in reverse, and both of us on the dock trying to pull the stern around, and there was one point where I just didn't think we were going to be able to do it. After all of that work, I fueled up, took 37.7 gallons of diesel, and then David looked at the tide and said, " I guess you're stuck here for a bit, just hang out until the tide changes." So I did. Grand total passage for the day - 6.88 Nautical miles, and I was stuck.

Actually I hung out for 2 tide changes, I stayed on the dock overnight, plugged in, and set about making dinner, and then I started to bake some bread. I didn't have the recipe on hand, since I had no internet, so I called Ali and asked her to look it up and read it to me. I have no idea what I was thinking when I saved my recipes in Internet Explorer, fat Lot of good they do there when I have no net. Ali went to the website I get my recipes from, and I jotted down all the info and directions as she read them off to me. She laughed at me the entire time I was writing it all down, but we finally got all of it transferred and translated, and I started on baking bread. It didn't turn out too bad, kind of ugly but very tasty - due to the cold the dough did not rise as much as it could have - even with the electric heater going it was still a bit cool onboard. The heat didn't help the bread dough much, but I would have just about frozen had I not been plugged in to the dock. When I woke up this morning it was 19 degrees out on deck. I waited until daybreak, and then started to get ready to go, as the tide was changing and going to be running the way I needed it to in order to get off the dock. The forecast called for a good warm up as the day progressed, topping out at 43, so I bundled up and got underway. It was so cold out early this morning that the froth and foam left from the wake of a passing boat froze on the surface as I passed by, it was really neat to see, but really underscored just how cold it was.

I made 40.3 NM today, I didn't push too hard, and I had a few good currents along the way. Down below Charleston alot of the ICW follows creeks, streams and inlets, very winding, and lots and lots of time in the salt marsh. I did see quite a few dolphin today though, probably 5 or 6 pods of them, but I wasn't able to catch many pictures of them as the waterways were pretty narrow mostly, so I couldn't break away from the helm to snap photos. I also saw 2 river otters, and a bald eagle, lots of water fowl, and alot of really interesting stuff along the banks and in the marsh as I motored by.

I was passed by the USCG tug ANVIL and its barge around 2, it was a buoy tending rig out of Charleston, and little did I know it, but they were headed out to replace a marker that had been knocked down just ahead of where they had passed me. I got to see them set up and put in the piling, and as I lost sight of them I suppose they were putting on the marker and lights and all the things that turn a naked piling into a channel marker.

Around 4:30 I arrived at statute mile 424 on the ICW, a nice little creek about 10 miles north of Beaufort, that turned out to be a really good anchorage. (I have internet, so it is actually a great anchorage) I was able to run Spook in to the public boat ramp so she could make a head call, and it was secluded enough that I was able to let her run around for a bit and work off some of that energy. I also met a local guy on one of the docks that had just returned from a year and a half down in the Keys. We chatted for a while, and he gave me lots of points of interest (mostly bars, liquor stores and groceries) to check out not only in the Keys, but also along the entire route down. Needless to say, I know I won't remember it all, but I do have his number if I need to know where to get beer or food when I am down that way. Night has fallen and I am all buttoned up on the boat with the stove going, brewing up yet another batch of tea. Tomorrow I will have a short run to Beaufort, and then on Thursday or Friday it looks like I am going to head out and make a 113 mile dash across the coast of Georgia and tuck in at St. Mary's Florida.

I am updating the Sunrise Sunset album, so be sure to check out the progress Arden has made through the Google Earth map.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cookies and Cold

Ok, so I am feeling a bit less than adventurous right now, this morning it was 19 degrees out when I got up, colder here in Charleston than in Manteo, Elizabeth City, or Chesapeake. I did break down last night and tie up to a dock and plugged the boat in, I had electric heat for a change, and even then, it kept the cabin warm, well 60 degrees, but definitely it was warmer than I would have been out on the anchor. I actually think I have dragged the cold with me, considering where I came from is warmer by a few degrees than where I am at.

Yesterday I obviously did not leave Charleston, it was too cold to think of being out in that wind, and so I spent the majority of the day on the boat trying my best to stay warm. One thing I did to add more heat to the cabin was fire up the oven, and since I had the oven going, I decided I'd make use of those extra BTU's and bake some cookies. I am not a really experienced cook, and have never professed to be a baker, so I chose a simple recipe that was about on a par with my skill level, and made sugar cookies. They were not bad. In fact, they might have actually been good, but they didn't last long enough to make that determination. I split the batch and gave a bunch to Clay and Mary, and the ones I kept were gone before night fall. I have found that sugar cookies go very well with a hot cup of tea, hot chocolate as well.

And so begins another day of trying to stay warm, but, the weather is supposed to break and we are scheduled to start our climb out of these very low temps in the next day or so. I hope all goes the way the forecasters say it will, because I really need to get this boat and me on down south before the next freeze settles in.

Sugar Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks