Final preparations are underway. Jane stored away all the clothing and food for the trip. I put away all the tools and other junk I thought was required for the trip. In the process I found the top of the nav station (it had been missing for several months; buried under a pile of tools and parts).
The water and fuel tanks are full (with water and fuel, respectively). The deck jugs are full, too, with water and fuel. The dinghy is deflated and secured on deck. The storm sail is on it's track and the life raft is armed and secured on deck. The dock lines are singled-up. Tomorrow at 0700 we leave.
This is it. After four years of dreaming and planning it's finally happening: We're heading South. I don't really believe it. Sleep will not come easily tonight.
We're on our way. The wind is SE at 12-kts and it's raining. Our heading is 185° Mag and we're making 4 kts into a 2-ft chop on Chesapeake Bay. The air is a cold and heavy 48° .
Galena departed her slip this morning at 0730hrs. Our best friend, Capt Ron (s/v “Lastdance”), was aboard his boat (two slips down) and heard our engine start. He hurried out to say ‘goodbye' and to help us cast-off our dock lines. It was nice to have someone to wave goodbye to. I had been planning on playing some especially significant music on Galena's stereo as we motored out of the slip but after weeks of contemplation no decision was made. So we left quietly into a cold dreary mist.
Just south of the marina in Kent Narrows is a draw bridge. The bridge tender didn't make us wait for the half-hour opening and we motored right through. We told him 'Thanks, and we'll see you in the Spring." He laughed and asked if he could come with us. The rain started just south of the Kent Narrows drawbridge; about a half mile from our slip. Jane had just taken over the helm.
Jane has a theory on this: Whenever she drives the weather goes to hell. We saw that on our last ocean passage (Ft Lauderdale, FL to Beaufort, NC in April 2003). On that trip she acquired the nickname: Wind Witch.
As we sailed through Eastern Bay and into the Chesapeake I didn't think we would be able to make Solomons Island by nightfall; we're going far too slowly to cover the 50-nm in the daylight we had left (damn those short fall days). So I started looking for alternatives. I looked at Flag Harbor. I also seriously considered going into the anchorage at Solomons after dark. After all, I had at least seen the place before so it wouldn't be too hard to find my way in.
This might be the right time to cover a couple of the rules Jane and I have come up with for our trip. The first is veto power when it comes to issues involving safety or comfort. Realizing that we have differing levels of comfort when it come to risk/adventure, and realizing that out here mistakes can be fatal, we decided that each of us has veto power over any and all decisions. I may say “we can enter that harbor in the dark, no sweat.” And if that makes Jane uncomfortable she can simply say “No, we won't do that.” And that's the end of the discussion. The decision is vetoed without having to win arguments or making explanations beyond “I'm just not comfortable with that action.” That goes for acts of omission, too.
Another rule concerns 'clipping in' when on deck. Some cruisers wear safety harnesses all the time (leaves a funny tan line, by the way). Others never wear them. We use them when on deck only when we are alone at night or in rough weather. Otherwise no. The jacklines are always there and ready and the harnesses are always readily at hand. But we don't usually wear them. I think anyone who has the rule "Wear a harness all the time" is too risk averse to be out on the ocean. Oh, I also wear a harness when single-handing Galena regardless of the weather.
Back to the trip at hand.
This was certainly a lousy way to start such a Grand Adventure. But we “had” to leave the slip today. All of our friends on O-dock would be back tomorrow (Friday) and they had already said goodbye. Besides, it's bad luck to start a voyage on a Friday. So we left, even with a less-than-perfect weather forecast. (See, I really didn't learn from my past mistakes.)
But Friday was forecast to be very windy: 25-30 kts. There's no reason for us to be out in that. We plan to get to Solomons then wait there until Saturday when we'll head to Jackson Creek; the next planned stopover.
Wind W 10 Kts.
Recap: What a terrible day!! We left Kent Narrows with no wind. Then it started raining. Then the wind came up. And of course it was almost right on the nose. Just over the port bow. We ran a close-hauled port tack with the engine running at 2000 rpm and a double reefed main with staysail (I really hate running that engine). We make 5.5 kts most of the way. Then about 1400 hrs the wind got up to 20kts and the seas built to 4-6 feet (yeah, in the Bay!).
We had to tack back and forth motoring into the chop to make it here. Then night fell. As we made the turn at Little Cove Point the wind clocked to the SW at 18kts apparent. Then it clocked to the west. Probably just because we were turning west.
We made the run from there to Drum Point in the dark, in the rain, with big waves, and on starboard tack at 5.5 kts.
We approached the anchorage in the dark with just our trusty GPS (a small chartplotter: Garmin GPSMap-176), a faint memory of having seen the place a year ago, and an educated guess as to where we were and where we were going.
But we made it with no problem. As is usually the case when lying safely in harbor the ordeal quickly turns into adventure as the we slowly exhale. We are tucked in just west of Molly's Let Island. It seems like a good little anchorage just inside and out of the way. Thanks go to Capt Ron (“s/v Lastdance”) for the suggestion for this spot. Visitors usually go further up the creek to the main anchorage near town. We're staying on board while here so this is just fine.
Jane is in the galley cooking dinner. She's held up very well considering how much she hates sailing on the Bay at night.
Kent Island to Solomons Island (54 nm)
5 November 2004, 0300 hrs.
Up for an anchor check. The winds are blowing 20 kts at 310° (on deck).
The weather looks bad for tomorrow. The winds are forecast to be 25-35 kts. That might make for an exciting beam reach but it would be at best uncomfortable. We will probably sit where we are for a day. We can use the time to dry out and rest. Saturday forecast is west at 10-15.
The new wind generator (Air-X Marine) is loving this wind. I've seen it peak at 10 amps. And it's producing an average of 4-5 amps and that is more than enough for our meager needs.
5 November 2004 - Solomons Island
With all this wind Galena was dancing back and forth at anchor. So I tried the riding sail that Gene (s/v SeaWoof) had lent me. It took a while to rig it. Once up, it worked fairly well. But it completely blanketed the wind generator. The wind generator was stalled and just swung around in the backwash of that little sail. So the sail is of no use to us. It's going into a deep storage area.[Later Note: I've thought about this since then. I might have been able to rig the sail up higher on the backstay; above the wind generator. Or I might have been able to rig it off to one side. I've seen both of these approaches on other boats and they look workable on Galena]
Belles Creek is just off Indian Creek which is just north of the Rappahannock River. This is a quiet little cove with 8-10 feet of water and is big enough for 4 or 5 boats. There seems to be room further up the creek around the bend but I haven't looked up there.
We departed Solomons Island at 0630; just at sunrise. We arrived here in Belles Creek at 1700hrs; just at sunset. We mostly motor-sailed all day.
Despite the forecasted 10-15kts there was absolutely no wind and the river and bay were glassy. Then it picked up just a bit but from WSW to 8 kts. We actually sailed for about three hours. Then the wind veered to the south and was right on our nose (again). The Bay started to get rough again. The area at the mouth of the Potomac River is almost always a little rough. Especially if the wind and tide are sparing. We spent a long time looking at our “destination” of Deltaville. It was soon apparent that we couldn't make it before nightfall. I did a quick search and found Indian Creek and then Belles Creek. The cruising guide described it as a nice spot and so we gave it a shot. The only drawback to this place was that it was a full 3.5 miles west of the Bay. That means it takes almost an hour to get in here from the bay.
Solomons Island to Belles Creek (53 nm)
This is a very nice marina and costs just $1.25/ft. The fairways are a little narrower than I would like but it's workable.
Belle's Creek to Hampton (47 nm)
We got up this morning at 0700 and departed Belles Creek at 0735hrs. It was a little late for a start, but we had planned on just heading over to the York River. Once again we motored out onto a glassy calm Bay. In fact we motored all day long. The only place we saw any rough water was as we crossed the mouth of the Rappahannock River. The guide books say it can be bad there and it was.
We were planning on making it to a marina on the York River (we needed a shower). But the GPS said we would arrive at 1430 hrs; way too early to quit for the day. This was the first time we were going to make a planned destination too early.
So I re-routed us to this place (Bluewater Marina) in Hampton, VA. The GPS said we would arrive at 1630. After taking on fuel and getting a pump-out we were safely in our slip by 1645 hrs. This is a very nice little marina. We don't know what's near here. We have not tried to go off the grounds yet.[Later Note: There's a grocery store and deli just a half mile up the road]
Right now Jane's making dinner and doing laundry. And I'm doing my usual nothing. Well, I'm inspecting Galena and writing this log. That's my job, right?
One more thing: The Caribbean 1500 fleet is right here in this marina. They were supposed to be on their way to the British Virgin Islands by now. They, too, decided not to leave because of a NE storm coming Monday night.
I thought that if we went down the Intracoastal Waterway to Beaufort, NC, and headed offshore from there we'd actually be starting at about the same time as the rally but about 100 miles further south. [Later Note: After only 2 days the managers of the rally decided not to wait any longer for the weather to clear up. Many of the crew members were on a 2-week vacation from work. They could not wait indefinitely (Violation of Cruising Rule #1: Never let a schedule make decisions for you). They knew there was bad weather out there waiting for them but they left anyway. That had catastrophic results for some. (Read the log of once such participant: s/v Quietly).]
One more thing (again):
We've had this ongoing issue with the electrical hookup at our slip in Mears Point Marina. Here we are in a marina, on shore power, and I notice that when I turn on the heater, that reverse polarity light does NOT light up like it does on our dock at Mears Point. That leads me to believe that something is wrong with the wiring at Mears Point Marina. Maybe that's why my big inverter blew-up when I switched it on.
Tomorrow, we'll head down to Beaufort, NC.
Temp: inside 64, outside 40
We departed Blue Water Marina at 0900 in very gusty winds out of the NNE. And of course, the weather is cold. The water in Norfolk harbor entrance was very rough. But with the wind on our stern, we just had a very rolling ride.
1. Hampton to Norfolk. 2. Through Norfolk. 3. Up the river to the swamp (21 nm total)
There was a lot of traffic in the river. At one point we had a cruise ship passing from the stern, a Warship with tug passing from ahead, I was passing a tug to my starboard, a powerboat was passing me from astern on my port side and a security inflatable pacing me on the right.
Sharing the road in Norfolk
There are two ICW routes between Norfolk and Beaufort. The main route is known as Virginia Cut. It runs down the Elizabeth River and across the Currituck Sound to Coinjock, NC. From there it exits the North River and follows it out and into the Albemarle Sound.
The second route is through the Dismal Swamp. Just south of the bridge at SM 7.1 (That's Statute Mile Marker on the ICW, measured from Hospital Point in Norfolk, VA) or at position 36° 45.4'N 076° 17.7'W. Just after the bridge (and I mean just after it) there's a very small creek to starboard. There is also a large but very hard to see sign that identifies the turn as the route through the Dismal Swamp. The sign is also just past the turn-off. As we came out from under the bridge we were surprised to sort of accidentally see that sign. We had talked about taking the swamp route. The cost to keep it open is high. And, unlike the Virginia Cut route, the swamp route is no longer used by commercial traffic. So there is very little incentive to keep it open. Every year there is a fight within the Corps of Engineers as to whether or not the swamp would stay open. This year the keep-it-open side had lost. So we had been hearing that this might be the last year any cruisers will be using it. We had decided to take the swamp route before leaving Blue Water Marina in Hampton. That is, if it were open.
There is also the yearly issue of the water-level in the swamp. Some years there's just not enough water to make the route passable. The sign said it was open so we made a sharp turn to starboard and headed in.
About 2 miles into the creek I screwed up. At SM 10 there is a R4 and a G5 day mark, in that order. After the R"4" I went too far to the left of the channel, actually attempting to put the G5 to starboard rather than to port as it should be. And I promptly ran Galena aground. And I mean hard aground. The boat only took about three feet to come to a stop from 5 kts. The bow jumped up about a foot in the process.
We made it to the only lock on the route in time for the 1330 lock-up. During and after the lock-up, Robert Peak, Lock Tender, Bridge Tender, park manager, historian, et al., gave us a 30-minute lecture on the history of the Great Dismal Swamp. It was a very interesting lecture, but we were a captive audience since we couldn't move till he opened the doors. And he wasn't going to open the lock doors until he had finished the lecture and we agreed to write our Congressmen telling them to fund the Dismal Swamp Route. He also showed us his shell garden and even played a tune on one of his conch shells for us.
Bill, Phil, and Robert at the Tender's shack
We tied up at the small dock just south of the lock and north of the bridge, right behind a trawler named "Scuttlebutt." Phil and his friend were on board and offered to help us tie up. There was power there, but only a socket for 50 amp, 125/250. I didn't have that particular adapter. So we had a very cold night. I would later find out that while I had a lot of adapters, this one that was missing from my collection was the most common one we would need.
We walked the short quarter-mile into town and had a sandwich at the deli. We went to the hardware store and bought some more lamp fuel and alcohol for the stove. It was going to be a cold night. The alcohol for the stove comes in one-gallon cans. That would be hard to carry back to Galena. But I also bought a short length of rope that I could use as a yoke across my shoulders and, with a can on each end at about hand-level, carried the cans almost without effort. I have since learned to always carry a short piece of line in my pocket. And when I'm going shopping I always carry at least a light back pack.
Before we left the dock at the lock, Phil, Jane, and I had morning coffee with Pete the lockmaster in his tender-house. We had to wait for him to open the bridge anyway so again we were his captive audience. While enjoying the heat of the house and the hot coffee I noticed that Pete had several old, tattered Corps of Engineers flags. Since the lock is operated by the Corps, he flies that flag from his flag pole. Since I was in the Corps, too (albeit as an Army Combat Engineer) I asked where I might get one of these. He tossed me one saying he was about to throw it out anyway. S I had yet another flag to fly from Galena's spreader.
All the way from the lock to the visitor center we experienced some strange behavior. First of all, our speed was not right. Normally, when we are motoring at about 2800 rpm in still water we move at about 5.7 knots. Well today we would move at that speed sometimes, but then for no reason, we would slow to about 4.8 kts. Then we would speed up again. Also, we were squatting down at the stern a great deal; much more than the 12-inches we usually do. At first, I thought we were dragging something. I even spent a lot of time with a long boat hook sliding it down the joint between the keep and the rudder, trying to slide out anything caught there. But now I think that we were driving through heavy silt. The depth sounder was reading 6 to 7 feet. But I think we were in something more like 4.5 feet of water and 1.5 feet of some kind of soup.
Here we also met Earl and Elaine Short (m/v "Short-Cut"). It's an older motor vessel but very comfy. They live aboard and they have a lot of experience on the ICW. They are also just a wonderful couple to talk with. As I recall, they are making the 'great circle' cruise (East Coast, Mississippi River, Great Lakes). Earl gave me a copy of Capt Voyager and the charts for the Eastern US and all of the Caribbean.
This was the morning at the visitor center. ScuttleButt is ahead of us, and a small m/v is rafted on our starboard side.
Notice the frost on the ground?
Driving down the Great Dismal Swamp Canal
We left the visitor center at 0730 hrs to make the 0830 lock-down at South Mills.
As we left the visitor center, I failed to notice that there was little or no water coming out of the exhaust port. Within a few minutes the engine overheat alarm sounded. I shut down the engine and started to investigate. “Scuttlebutt” was behind us and I radioed Phil to come around as we were going to drop an anchor and work on the engine. Phil suggested that he tow us while I worked and on the surface that sounded like a very nice thing for him to do. The channel was only about fifty feet wide and we would be swinging into the banks if we stopped. We would certainly be in the way if anyone else came along.
So Phil was towing and Jane was steering Galena and I was below taking apart the engine's cooling system. I noticed two things: First, there was a serious drip coming from the seawater cooling pump shaft, and second, there was no water going through the heat exchanger.
I couldn't do anything about the leaking shaft, but that was not the main problem. I went from the heat exchanger to the pump and then to the strainer and then right to the through-hull looking for the blockage. At each point I'd pull off a hose and expect to find seawater. But at each point I found nothing; no water flow at all. I found the problem in the through-hull itself. I tried to run a rod down through the through-hull. It wouldn't go. It was hitting something soft and spongy. I fashioned what was essentially a long cork screw out of a barbeque fork. Eventually I pulled a plastic bag from the inlet and immediately had water flowing into the boat. I shut off the the through-hull and cleaned up the mess. I was explaining all this to Phil on Scuttlebutt, telling him that once I got everything put back together we'd be good to go. He misunderstood. He suddenly stopped started to untie us. Well, his little lightweight powerboat came to a sudden stop. Galena's 20,000-lb mass kept her moving ahead at 5 kts. Phil looked up and shouted to Jane, "Put it in reverse!". Jane yelled back, "Put what in reverse?" The engine was still silent and in pieces. To me she yelled "What do I do now?" She steered for the bank but it was too late. As we overtook him he was trying to fend us off but Galena is just too heavy for that. We hit him on his starboard aft quarter. We did no damage to Scuttlebutt, but put some serious scratches on our port bow.
Here m/v Scuttlebutt follows us out of the Dismal Swamp
I quickly put everything back together and we were on our way.
The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We came under the bridge in Elizabeth Town and saw what the guides call a marina immediately on the left. It turns out to be not so much a marina as a private dock run my an attorney in the building at the head of the dock. The attorney, Thomas P Nash, IV, came down and introduced himself. He's a great guy who charges something like $5 per night to use the dock. That covers electricity, he says. The said the dock had been in his family for as long as he could remember and had always been open to travelers of the ICW. We were only a couple of blocks from downtown. Except for the noise from traffic on the bridge (which was significant) it was a very nice place to tie up.
There were several other boats making their way down the Dismal Swamp route with us. Most of them continued south past Elizabeth City. We heard on the radio that every one of them were boarded by the Coast Guard and given a very thorough safety inspection. Later, in town, we learned that there is a USCG training station right there (we met a few of the cadets/trainees/whatever). They use the transient boats as training aids.
The water pump was dripping very badly, So I ordered a new one from Bay Shore Marine in Annapolis, MD.
After I did that, I was talking with Earl (“Short-cut”) and he said “You just ordered a rebuild kit, didn't you?” I admitted that I had ordered a whole pump. He said that it was a good thing to have a spare. He was being nice. When the pump arrived the next day, he helped me clean it up and install it. The pump costs over $400 while a rebuild kit costs only $150. When I got back I ordered the rebuild kit to rebuild the old one.
We saw Phil (“Scuttlebutt”) in town. He was heading down to a marina to register his dinghy. I had never done that so I decided to join him. We now have a North Carolina dinghy.
We stayed in Elizabeth City for two days.
They only charge $1/ft plus $4 for electric. But they charge $17.50 for a pump-out! I would later learn not to like Miss Wanda very much.
We had a very nice crossing of the Albemarle Sound.
Check your charts here. The channel has been re-cut just North of the swing bridge. What was on our chart isn't what was on the ground.
Right at SM 80 we were looking for G3 day mark Our chart showed it directly in line between G "1AR" and G5. But about 1135hrs as we were passing G"1AR" I looked about 20° off the the right and saw a green day mark about 3/4 mile away. The G3 that was supposed to be ahead of us wasn't there, but this one to the right was. We were confused at first, but the rule is, “Follow what you see on the water, not what's on the chart.” As we approached the day mark we could see it was, in fact, the G3 we were looking for. As we approached it we noticed that the large powerboat that was ahead of us was aground. It looked like they were following the old channel. I spoke with the captain later at the Alligator Marina and he had laid in the route (according to his charts) into the autopilot and, sure enough, his boat followed the old route. He bent a prop and would have to stay there at the marina waiting for a replacement.
In the morning the wind was blowing pretty hard. But it was from the North and we were heading South. As we left the Alligator River Marina, the swing bridge operator was saying she was about to close the bridge due to high winds (over 35 kts). We got through just before she did that. Once the bridge is closed you just have to drop anchor and wait till the wind dies down enough for it to open again.
The run down to the bend at the south end of the sound/river was exciting. We had six-foot waves hitting us right on the stern. But again the wind was from astern so we didn't have to put up with a lot of pounding. Just a lot of rolling. Jane stuck her head out of the companionway and asked if I wanted a sandwich. All I could say was "Wait a little bit, we're about to get out of this mess." We made the turn into the Alligator River at SM 100 and immediately everything changed. No waves; no wind.
Jane in the Galley
We came through the breakwater at Belhaven and Scuttlebutt, who was in a marina, and said ‘hi' as we motored by. We anchored out in front of the town and didn't bother to dinghy in. We'd do that far too often. That we didn't have the dinghy inflated and ready to go, we'd often just sit on Galena when we anchored along the ICW and not take advantage of the towns we saw.
We had a hard time finding the entrance channel to this place. We couldn't pick out the channel markers using our binoculars. We used the GPS and computer-based maps to point Galena in the right direction. Finally we saw the channel markers. We anchored out as we had at Belhaven. But this time we dinghied in to the public dock. There is a dock in Oriental. It will hold 2 boats only and it's free. But even after having been here three times, we've never found that dock with a vacancy. And the water up to it is shallow, about 6' and the route back to it is narrow. We walked around the town a little, but most things were closed. We had a nice dinner at a little café.
We had used the staysail to steady Galena as we motored down the Neuse River. We had a somewhat rolly ride, but not too bad. There wasn't enough wind to sail, but there was enough to make an uncomfortable ride.
We also had another very cold night. This has to end soon or the crew will mutiny.
We decided to stay here because this marina is where we stopped for fuel back in May 2003. That was on the first trip we took on Galena. We had sailed up from Ft Lauderdale and just did a fuel stop before heading into the ICW for the first time.
This time we had a quiet albeit cold over-night stay. This is not a recommended marina. The showers suck. You are stranded miles from anywhere in an industrial park. While the owners are nice folk, and the docks are nice and convenient to the waterway, I wouldn't stop here again.
[Later Note: Everyone said that Beaufort is a wonderful place. But we were only planning on stopping overnight and so didn't go there. Even though it was only a couple of miles to the east of here. Now that we have had the opportunity to spend some time there I can say that even for an overnight stop, one should go to Beaufort rather than anyplace in Moorehead City. I find that Beaufort is one Hell of a nice town. If you can you should plan on staying there for a day or two just to look around. Great museum, nice shops, Grocery and hardware stores within a (long) walk. And the museum has loaner cars for the asking.]
I ran us aground again today just South of Moorehead City. I went left of channel (again) and hit hard sand, hard. This time we were up by the stern. The rudder had no leverage and couldn't twist the boat around. So we tried having me bounce on the bow and other such things to no avail. Then we saw a large powerboat coming up from astern (m/v Safari). We radioed him and asked him to send us a wake to bounce us off. He said, “I'll send you the biggest wake I can.” That was a big mistake. The wake damned near swamped us. We had a foot of water on deck and were rocked from rail to rail. Everything was soaked and down below, every drawer was flung open and every book was thrown off the shelf. The area below looked like we had been ransacked.
And even then, we were still aground. So “Safari” said, “I'll stop and turn around and do it again.” We said, slow down. A small wake is all we needed. Well the second attempt didn't move us off the sandbar either. So he was about to hit us again, when we finally pushed ourselves free.
The new inverter stopped working today. We have the small, 140-watt unit and that's it. But all we use it for is the notebook computer and a couple of other chargers for various hand-held electronics.
This anchorage is quite big. The entrance is narrow, though, and shoals quickly on each side. The channel is more to the right than you might think.
See the channel in the picture above? See how it's actually far to the right of the land that you would be looking at from the deck of your boat?
The bottom in here is a black, gooey slime that sticks like hell to your anchor/rode.
The normal, every day view from the cockpit while motoring up the ditch.
This was an uneventful day of just motoring down the ICW. We found some very shallow spots, as usual. And we saw some interesting houses. At one point I met a barge coming the other way. The channel was pretty narrow there and as I moved over to the side I saw the depth shoal from 11 feet to 10, to 9, to 8, to 6…. All in about 2 boat lengths. And the barge was only about 40 feet to my port side. There was no place to go so I just went very slowly.
About the same time we actually caught up with and passed a boat (for only the second time on this trip). The boat was s/v E. H. Burton a Voyager from NJ. Nice guy single-handing down the coast.
The E.H. Burton
And he had the neatest figurehead under the bowsprit. It was only a profile view, but very cool.
We anchored near the bridge with about 10 other boats. We inflated the dinghy and went to the town. We found a very nice little grocery store a block away. But that was about it.
18 November 2004
South Harbor Marina, Milepost 310 N33° 55.2 W078° 03.7
Trip 25 nm/ 413 nm. Eng 404
Fuel: Added 33.5 gal (both tanks now at 33 gals)
Oil: Added ¾ quart. Need to change the oil before 450 hrs.
This little marina is nice. But I took a spot on the bulkhead along the channel. I figured it would be easier to get going in the morning. I should have opted for an inside slip. We had a lot of wakes all evening and early in the morning from fishing boats running by.
There is a very nice little deli where we had dinner. The showers were welcome and the available laundry meant a night of work for Jane.
As we left Wrightsville Beach we stopped and fueled up. I had one of those very rewarding, ego-boosting moments there. The tide flows fast past the fuel dock. Seeing that the tide was coming in, and I was heading out-bound. So I spun around to be stemming the tide and slipped sideways toward the dock. The fuel guy said, "When I saw you turn around to face the tide I knew you knew what you were doing and that my job would be easy." I brought Galena to a stop just inches from the dock. One of the 'special' moments in piloting.
As we entered the channel near milepost 308 we heard “Short-cut” calling Carolina Beach State Park for a slip. So they are just behind us. It would be nice to see Earl and Elaine again.
During the summer months, when I would daydream about this trip, one of my concerns was the warnings about a place called Lockhearts Folly. Everywhere I went on the Internet I read about the shallow water there. I'm so damned paranoid about hitting bottom that I was loosing sleep over this (and several others) thin spot on the ICW. I was worried that we would have to wait for the tide to come in to get through. But we arrived at Lockhearts Folly at low tide and found 15 feet of water. I guess they did finally dredge the area. So all that worry was for nothing.
We went through “The Rockpile” at high tide without incident. But there was a very strange turn in the channel; well marked, but strange. You head along down the 'visual center' of the channel. Both sides are steep and rocky. Then you notice a small red nun floating over on the southern side of the channel, very close to the bank along with a couple of green cans. It looks 'wrong' but you have to follow the marks, right? I did and there was never less than 9-feet of water.
The swing bridge at Little River broke just as it started to open for us. We had to tread water in swift current for about 40 minutes. I was just about to go over to a nearby fuel dock and tie up when they finally got it to open. In all that time the operators never even said a word to us despite our calling to ask what was going on. We could see them working on it so we pretty much left them alone. They simply ignored us. Even as we went through, they said nothing.
Barefoot Landing lets boats tie up for up to 72 hrs at no charge. There's no electricity or water, but it's a nice bulkhead floating dock. The guidebook said, “rafting is expected.” Well, I squeezed us into a small hole between a couple boats when we arrived and when we left in the morning there were 12 boats at the dock with only one rafted.
In the picture above you can see the dock just south of the bridge. Tied-off at the center of the dock there's a Pirate Ship that sells rides. At bow and stern there are permanent signs posted saying "No Docking" or something. The pirate ship needs room to get in and out. Aside from that it's just first-come, first-served. And do put out fenders for someone will try to raft up if there's no other space for them.
There is a big outlet mall there. Jane had a good time shopping for the first time in the trip. I got some sugarless fudge. We had a nice light dinner at a local bar. There was a dress shop named ‘White House Black Market' that Jane went back to a couple times.
For the first time we had some trouble setting the anchor. At first we had trouble finding a spot to drop the hook, then we took two tries to get it to set. We're using our 35# CQR and all chain rode. Usually we set with no problem. But this bottom is different.
Eventually we settled in and watched a couple of movies on DVD and then Jane played computer games till about 3AM.
In the morning we dinghied ashore and met a couple (Bob and ??) on a custom steel sloop. They've been here a week and will be leaving in the morning. We had a nice lunch at the local deli and walked around the town. But it's Sunday and everything is closed. There's a cute little bar on the “Harbor Walk” that we might go to tonight.
We walked to a Pizza Hut for dinner and had a quiet night on board.
Well, I say quiet in the emotional sense only. The anchorage at Georgetown, SC is right next to a huge scrap metal yard. All day long, and all night long, they are dropping piles of scrap metal onto barges and into ships. Makes for a not-so-pleasant place to stay. And we were there on a weekend!
This has been a long day.
First the engine overheated while running at only 3000 rpm. In the past we have had it overheat when running at full throttle for over, say, 10 minutes. But never at just 3000 rpm. Something is wrong with the cooling system.
I opened the raw water strainer and found nothing but a couple of small leaves. I checked the water flow from the through-hull to the strainer and it looked OK.
Tomorrow, I'll open up the heat exchanger and look for clogs. We plan on going into a marina in Charleston, SC, just 15 miles South of here.
I ran us aground again. Just at McClellenville. We saw single digits and then we saw 6.2 feet. When you draw 5 feet and you see 6.2 that means you're floating in just a foot of water. In the ICW, the depth changes very quickly so whenever it gets down to 8 feet or less we slow down and start feeling our way. Well, we went left and then right across the width of the marked channel looking for deep water. It was low tide and there's a 4-foot tidal range here. But still, there should be more water than that. We hit bottom but were able to back off. Then we couldn't find a path through the shallows. We had a rising tide, so I figured, what the Hell, we'll just try to power through. We saw 4.4 on the depth meter and I hit full throttle. We pushed through and suddenly we were in 9 feet.
[Later Note: Days later I studied the charts and our GPS track through that area. I believe I mistook the G25 marking Town Creek, with an ICW marker. It sets between G35 and G35A, a little to the South. That marker is off to the side of the ICW and I mistakenly thought it was part of the ICW channel marks. While I thought I was in the channel I was, in fact, a couple of boat-lengths South of it.]
But for the next hour, we only saw single digits on the depth meter. That makes for stressful driving.
Jane drove through a lot of that shallow water today. She seems to handle it better than me. I have a friend who simply turns the depth sounder off in situations like that.
Then she finished up the day by making a wonderful beef and mashed potato dinner. That woman never rests.
We plan on staying here for a couple days. We are thinking about going off-shore to Jacksonville, FL.
I changed the oil and transmission fluid. They have no place to put an old filter so I didn't change it.
I opened up the heat exchanger and found a lot of silt in there. Cleaned it out and that should help with the overheat problems. When we hit reverse in shallow water, we stir up a lot of bottom-stuff. [NOTE: After we returned from this trip, I found the real culprit was carbon buildup in the water injection elbow.]
The marina has a shuttle that runs to the market and West Marine. The leave every hour and will come and get you when you call. Very nice.
We did a big grocery-run. I went to West Marine and bought a shore power adapter, the one I didn't have 50 amp 125/250 volt. It seems that's the one most docks want you to have.
On the 25th it was blowing 25-30 kts and we really want to go outside to skip Georgia. So we waited in Charleston another day. As it turned out, we should have waited two days.
We left Charleston with 5-foot swells and light to moderate winds right on the stern. We ran with just the jib and made 6 kts. But because of the large swells the jib kept collapsing and banging.
On the 27th, at about 1500 hrs, Jane was driving (of course) and the wind started to pick up and clock around to the southeast. By 1900, we were making less than one knot headway into heavy seas. It was dark, so it was hard to estimate the swell height. But the seas were confused. With wind waves hitting us from the bow and swells coming at us from the West. I was a very rough ride. After two more hours of attempting to motor into that mess, Jane looked at me and asked "What do we do now?" At that point we both would like to have been somewhere else; anywhere else. This was the worst storm we had seen to date. The wind was hitting 40 kts on deck and the seas must have been well over 9 feet. Galena was bouncing around and making no headway. It was dark, raining, windy, and rough. We only had a couple of options.
At first I tried to let her lie ahull. I just cut the engine and dropped the sail. But she rolled badly and we (rather 'I') couldn't stand it. I went back on deck and set the staysail and lashed the tiller down. That caused Galena to settle into a 1.2 kt jog across the wind and to the East. We were heading east about 2 nm East of the rhomb line and still 16 nm from Jacksonville, FL. Not the best situation but we were exhausted so we both went below and I went to sleep. Jane kept a loose watch for the first 3-hrs. Then it was my turn. We were now 18 nm from Jacksonville and the wind was clocking around to the southwest. So at 0200 on the 28thI tacked Galena around so we were heading West, toward the shore. We were still over 20 miles off shore and making about 1.3 kts so I wasn't too worried about it. By 0400 the wind had clocked around to the West. We were heading North. We were 27 miles North of Jacksonville. So I figured I'd tack us around and we'd be on course. I had to use the engine to get Galena to swing through the wind which was down to about 30-kts. The seas were still very confused and running about 8-ft.
With 2000 rpm, just a staysail, we were making 6 kts toward Jacksonville. So I stayed up and motor sailed in to port. By dawn, the seas were moderating and by 1130 we were at the Jacksonville Marina jetty.
This was the first marina we came to. The current is very, very strong here. Its running about 4 kts on the ebb.
Later in the day we met Bill and Andi Clark on m/v Cowboy. They docked just behind us and also stayed a couple days.
We also met Bill and Georgiana (s/v St Somewhere) it was a Saga 420. Then Allen pulled in in a new Saga 409. Allen is the designer for Saga yachts. And he has hull number one of the 409 series.
Bill said to go to the Abacos , Elbow Cay, a marina named (something)-solas on the right as you enter the harbor.
We were going to leave at 1600 on November 29th with the tide change, but the current, which is tremendous here, had not died down by 1640 and we would have not had enough time to get to the next anchorage. So we waited till the next day.
On the 29th we spent a very nice evening on m/v Cowboy with Bill and Andi. He's a lawyer and ex Texas legislature. His custom built 65-foot steel yacht is just amazing. We walked into the engine room, are walked around the engine and noted the multiple generators and pumps to drive the bow and stern thruster. The motor for the watermaker was more powerful than Galena's engine. Plasma TV's that fold up into the overhead. Everything one could want was on that boat.
We had a very uneventful run here from Jacksonville. We left at 0830 with a high tide expected at 1011 hrs. We had a very fast run with the current most of the way. We arrived here at 1400hrs. When we got here m/v Cowboy was in the anchorage.
m/v Cowboy in St Augustine
We will stay here for a while. But the weather is cold and that makes it not so much fun.
But for $7 a day we can use the city marina facilities and dinghy dock.
I often talk about how the GPS will show if we drag at anchor. This is a picture of the GPS screen showing that we had had two wind shifts. The tracks left by Galena indicate that we have only circled around the anchor. As long as we were still “on the arc” we were OK. If we went outside the circle described by these three arcs, then we would be dragging. As indicated below, we are describing a 160-ft circle around the anchor. That's 30 feet of boat plus 50 feet of anchor rode times two (the GPS antenna is not at the absolute stern of Galena).
We met Larry and Flora (s/v Lunatic). Among the flags I fly (when I'm feeling festive, which is very often) is the flag of South Vietnam. As a veteran of that war I like to fly it along with my Army flag. Sort of showing my colors. Anyway, Larry saw my Vietnam flag and though I might be Ky. Ky is a man that Capt Ron had told us about last year. It seems Ky owns a Westsail 28 named “East Snail” and is sailing around the East Coast and Bahamas. He's on his way back to Vietnam to open a marina there.
This is a picture of Ky that I found on s/v Synchronicity's web site.
It seems everyone knows this guy.
We also met Sy and Mark. Mark's on s/v “Strider”. Sy knows Ky, too. See, Everyone knows him. It would be nice to meet this guy some day.