On the approach to Beaufort we had our own little drama with thin water; but we didn't quite go aground. In Russell Slough Channel the books say favor the green side at Red “4.” We did. But we still saw less than 8 feet of water. Then when I turned to port at Green “7” I swung too wide and saw less than 7 feet. Finally, after the Beaufort lift bridge I turned too soon toward the dock area and saw 5.2 feet. Recall that we draw 5-feet. That was close. Granted it was low tide and I was out of channel, but that was a little too shallow for me.
When I called for a slip at Beaufort Docks, the dock master asked for length, beam, draft. I said, “Westsail 32, 11 feet wide and 5 feet deep.” I usually state the make/mode of the boat hoping they will assume that we're 32-feet long; in fact we're almost 42-feet long when you include the bowsprit and boomkin) He replied, “Westsail, huh? So you're 45 feet long and 14 feet wide, right?” He was just pulling my chain. But he knew we weren't 32 feet long. As we turned toward our slip we saw s/v Full Circle (another W32) who we knew to be in the area. We had met her skipper, Tony, during our return from the Bahamas last spring.
Beaufort, NC showing anchorage just south of the city docks
Also, Capt Ian on s/v Antonia (a beautiful 65' sloop) said “Hi” and mentioned he had seen us at Coinjock. He's a retired Navy and airline pilot. British, I think.
Jane and I went to sign in. We got a couple of tokens for free beer so we went to the dock bar to have a beer. There we met a couple of local characters: Kevin and Jacob. Kevin is a marine carpenter and Jacob is a cook/fisherman. Kevin owns a Thistle which he is quick to point out is the mother of the Westsail (which he thinks is a great boat). Kevin did some cabinetry work on s/v Sarifin (Lyn and Larry Pardey's original boat). He said following up after Larry is a treat because Larry is an excellent woodworker. According to Kevin, the then-owners of Sarifin sold it and bought a Westsail named Jura (which according to the USCG boat name site is owned by Charles W Tillett, Beaufort, NC 28516.[ Ain't the internet grand?])
We stayed at Beaufort for 10 days. Mostly we were waiting for a good weather window to get us across the Gulf Stream. And partly we were enjoying the city.
On the 16th of November Jane and I did a few tasks but mostly relaxed. I did a couple of small projects such as change the oil and getting the fuel and water topped-off. I washed the decks and re-glued the GPS antenna mount (I broke it when I bumped the lock wall at the Great Locks). Jane cleaned the insides of Galena and made dinner.
The weather started out warm at about 80° but then cooled down and rained a little. The forecast calls for colder temperatures for the rest of the week. In fact the high was only to be 57°.
By the 18th of November we were using the cockpit as a refrigerator. The nightly lows were 40 and the daytime highs were 50.
I finally got around to buying distilled water and topping off the batteries. The starting battery was very low. The plates were not exposed, but they were just barely covered. The house batteries were also a bit low, but not too bad. However, they are so large (2ea, 4D Batteries) that by the time I was done I had added a total of ¾ of a gallon of water to them. I should have bought more distilled water to take with us. But the Piggly-Wiggly only had one bottle on the shelf. We also bought 3 small cans of propane (for the heater and grill) and an additional 2 gallons of alcohol for the cooking stove. We had left home with 7 gallons of alcohol but were using it a little faster than I had planned. [We would get back to our home port with just over 2 gallons left. So my planning was not too far off after all.]
During the week the weather did not really cooperate with us. Just offshore there was a strong Northerly blowing and the seas were reportedly running to 14-feet. We decided that we would not go out there just yet. The forecast called for 35-kts of wind and 14-ft seas. We thought that we might be able to leave by Wednesday. But we couldn't afford to stay in the marina till then. They charged $2/ft plus $8/day electric. So as we did in Nassau last year we just moved out into the anchorage in front of the marina. Then we could dinghy in for showers ($2) and entertainment. But we gave up the electric heater. And I had to unpack and inflate (and then deflate and repack) the dinghy.
Also on the 18th we used the marina's courtesy car again. But when we got back from the store, the ignition key would not turn. I couldn't turn the engine off. Jane went to get the dockmaster and after he tried it for a while he said, “Well, it's not your problem. Just go on back to your boat and we'll handle it.” Still I felt bad breaking the loaner.
I talked with Tony (s/v Full Circle, W32). He offered to get us on a mooring owned by a friend of his. Actually it was his mooring (it's not really a mooring; it's just two anchors set up- and down-current) but he had traded it away for a bunch of engine parts. The people who currently owned it had their boat on the hard and they said he could use it. So he said we could use it. He recommended that we stay another night in the marina and head over to the Backstreet Bar for some fine local entertainment.
The forecasts for Monday – Tuesday was bad. Saturday – Sunday wasn't too bad. So we waited. Wednesday the 24th of November was a definite maybe.
On the morning of the 19th, we paid for the slip (4-nights: $248) and the fuel (25.5 gal: $72). Tony came by and told us it was still ok to take his old mooring.
Jane noticed that the head smelled (remember our composting head?). So I did some investigating and found there was quite a bit of water in a loop in the vent hose. When installing this head, the designer called for a 1.5 inch forced air vent hose through the cabin top. Well, I was not too fond of the idea of making another hole in our roof. So I built a plenum for the exhaust fan and connected it to the 5/8-inch vent on the hull side. That vent was left over from the old holding tank. We had been in the ICW since we left and so have not had that vent under water. I figure it must have been condensation. I emptied it out and everything was fine. I'll have to check that vent hose periodically. When we're underway I'll have to check that vent hose because the seawater might find it's way in. The vent exits the hull just below the gunnels (about 2.5-feet above the water). Also the solid waste bucket content was very damp; probably because of the lack of ventilation. I added about a quart of dry peat moss and that fixed it up.
Tony came by and dinghied a painter and fender out to the mooring (it had nothing but the main float). Then he helped get us out of the slip by springing a dock line as I backed out. Very helpful. After we got on the mooring a guy dinghied passed and started yelling “you know you're on someone's ground tackle?” I didn't understand what he meant. He said, “That's not really a mooring.” I looked at the big floating ball and said, “Sure it is.” He said again, “Your on someone's ground tackle,” Not understanding I said “My friend Tony said we could use it.” He said “Tony doesn't own it anymore, And I didn't say you couldn't use it, just asked if you knew it wasn't really a mooring.” After he left I figured out that he was just telling me that there wasn't a block of concrete down there, just a couple of anchors (“someone's ground tackle”).
So on the 19th we were on a mooring just south of the Beaufort Town Dock. It was still cold in the evenings but we were OK with staying wrapped up in the down comforters. I was going to cook dinner on the grill so I mounted the propane barbeque on deck (for the first time). At first I mounted it at the top of a stanchion. But the wind kept blowing out the flame. Then I mounted it down low, just off the deck. That worked fine. Jane bought some great steaks for dinner tonight. We ate and played cards and dominoes. Michelle called to say she had updated the web page. All in all we had a nice evening. But we were expecting some savage winds over the next few days.
By the 20th of November the weather forecasts had steadied. It looked like we might be able to follow the cold front off shore on Thursday or Friday. The 12-ft seas ahead of us would not be a problem if they were to lie down quickly enough. Rain in the morning and highs around 57° with just a little wind.
Jane made some great breakfast tortillas. We also had great Internet access today (it comes and goes here) and were able to see the web site. Michelle is doing a great job with the web site.
The 21st of November (Monday) brought rain in the morning with just a little wind. But by 1030hrs the wind started to build. By mid-afternoon we were seeing 30-kts on deck. The GSP showed that we had moved about 17 feet outside the arc.
GPS showing the arc of swing and (at the top) the
sudden move away from the anchor as we dragged a little.
Either we dragged a bit or pulled one of the chains up and out of the mud. I know we were pulling very hard on that mooring. Some of the boats were pulling so hard on their lines that they were lifting their moorings right out of the water.
We took down our bimini and tied the dinghy bow and stern tight against Galena. We talked on the VHF radio with William on s/v Elan (Westsail42) heading for St Martins. Also going to St Martins is s/v Jenn II with Mary and Gary. And s/v Abu Dai is heading for the BVI. Tom and Jean (s/v Jean Marie) were heading for St Martins, too. They had already circumnavigated in their boat. Tom gave me the frequency and time schedule they had agreed upon so I could at least listen in. My ham radio will receive all frequencies, but restricts my transmission to just the ham bands. I could have corrected that problem, but to do so I'd have had to break a diode on the main circuit board. I had a picture of the board and was fairly certain that I know which diode to crush. But if I made a mistake I'd be without long-range communication for the rest of the winter. So I decided to put off making that mod until we returned home in the Spring.
We also talked with Dennis and Pat (s/v Glide) who are heading down to the Bahamas. They want to avoid the ditch and will do a lot of offshore passages down the coast.
In the afternoon I listened to Abu Dai talking with Herb (the weather-routing guy) who advised not to go until Thursday night. I was thinking Friday morning. So that reinforces my plans.
Jane and I had a rough ride on the morning of the 22nd. The wind was fighting the tide and Galena was lying broadside to the waves. Once the wind/tide got together the ride was nicer. But every now and then Galena heeled way over in a gust.
Jane, when not cooking or cleaning, spent the day drawing. I read. By 1800 things had calmed down a bit. And then I started feeling guilty about having just sat around all day. Oh, I did do one dumb thing. In an effort to quiet Galena, I pulled down the radar reflector that I usually have flying from the port-side flag halyard. Well the halyard got away from me and promptly ran to the spreader. Now I have to go up there (or more likely haul Jane up there) to retrieve it.
Jane and I folded up the bimini this morning. It was really getting beat up in the wind. I also wrapped a line around the mainsail cover to keep it from catching any air. The roller furling on a local boat broke loose and in no time the sail was shredded. S/v Élan dinghied over to secure it but it was too late.
On Wednesday, the 23rd, we walked to the Maritime Museum (which is a very nice little museum, by the way) to see about using a courtesy car. But they were all booked up for the day. They explained that we should reserve a car at least a day in advance. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and they (and just about everyone else) will be closed. So we reserved one for Friday morning. I plan on leaving Friday, but probably not till afternoon. The courtesy cars are old clunkers, but they work well enough. You can borrow one as often as you like but only for 2-hrs at a time, and they are very strict in observing that time limit.
With no car we walked to Ace Hardware and the Piggly-Wiggly. We bought a few things and walked back. We had a couple additional things to do before we left. Friday still looked good for departure. Saturday would have worked, too. Sunday may give us light winds on the nose but we should be 300 miles out to sea by then and some long tacks wouldn't be too bad.
Later in the day Jane was in the V-berth trying to do some drawing but the light in here wasn't very good. She said it was hard to get the colors right with no direct lighting.
On the HF radio I picked up Herb the weather-router (Southbound II). He advised waiting until Friday for departure for boats in Norfolk and Beaufort heading south to the islands. He said that the Tropical Storm at 40N 25W would be pulled apart soon because of some high-level west winds. And the storm was moving west. Friday looked good but the storm worried me a bit.
John Zekas (s/v Whiteout, Tartan 30) is crewing on s/v Northern Light. He saw the Lorain, OH on Galena and stopped by to say “Hi.” He's from Cleveland, OH and just wanted to chat a bit. Northern Light is heading for St Martin. They, too, plan to leave Thursday or Friday. The Friday forecast puts the Tropical storm moving North, so that's good. But the temp on Friday and on Friday night will be very low. They're calling for 32 degrees Friday night. That will be a cold night in the cockpit if we're out on the ocean.
By 1930hrs on 23rd November, Jane was making dinner and we were settling down for a nice evening. The next day would make a final grocery and water run and then we'd be ready to go.
Late in the evening winds picked up and we had another night of 30+kt SW winds. I was asleep at 2200hrs and then I was up from 0100hrs to 0300hrs watching the anchor/rode/GPS for trouble. The ride wasn't as rough as it had been a few nights ago but it did cause some concern. S/v Glide (Pam and Dennis) had left the day before. They were taking the offshore route to Charleston. I hope they made it before the winds came up.
Mary and Gary (s/v Jenn II) stopped by. They, too, are going to St Martin and plan on leaving tomorrow.
I extended and placed the ground foil for the SSB radio up from the bilge and around the nav station. Looks bad but it will work. I greased up Harvey and set the servo rudder in position. I just have to set Vespa the wind vane in place and the autopilot will be ready to go. I had painted a picture of a mermaid on the wooden wind vane of the Aires steering vane and I had named her Vespa (from the princess in the movie Spaceballs).