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18 Nov 07, Sunday
Beaufort, NC (ICW Milepost 205)
Anchored in the harbor

The outboard on the dink had been running very badly. I had just paid big bucks to get it tuned up and now it was running badly. That sort of sucks. I was whining about it during a phone call to Jane and she said it sounded like the same thing that had happened at Shroud Cay in '06: water in the fuel tank. Of course, she was right. I tilted the tank up on end and ran the engine for a bit and it cleared right up. Tilting the tank moved all the water away from the internal fuel pickup.

So today I scrubbed the gasoline. Using my 'Baja filter' I poured the fuel from the dinghy tank back into the large Jerry can and then from the Jerry can back into the dinghy tank. Also I drained the carb's float bowl and back-flushed the in-line filter.[Later Note: That worked just fine. The outboard is running great.]

I also went up the mast using my handy-dandy ascenders. I went up there to get down my pendent that had become tangled in the sheaves at the top of the mast. The pendant had just a couple of small cuts in it where the halyards wore through it. I'll have to find some other way to fly it.

I also drove Galena over to the fuel dock to get fuel and water. She took a total of 32.5 gals of fuel ($123). Fuel status is now: 32/32/13 (Stbd/Port/Deck)(Eng: 1374hrs). Then I moved back to just about where I was anchored before; when the USCG made me move. But, I forgot to get the water. How does one forget something like that? I have no idea. But in all the excitement of weighing anchor, motoring to the fuel dock, docking the boat, taking on fuel.... I just paid the bill and motored away. Once the hook was down again, I thought, Shit! I forgot to get water!

Jerry (s/v Persephone) tried to talk me out of going to Key West. He pointed out that the Gulf Stream and the winds would probably keep me bottled up there for a month or more when I tried to leave. And he said that while the town was fine for most visitors, it was not boater-friendly. Interesting that the guy in the Beaufort Docks office told me the very same thing. Well, I have time to think about it.

19 Nov 07, Monday
Beaufort, NC (ICW Milepost 205)
Anchored in the harbor

I walked down to the Piggly Wiggle today where I picked up a couple of items. I spent a whole $25 on pasta sauce, cookies, and a bottle of wine. On the way back I saw a canvas shop, Beaufort Canvas Works. John Powers had mentioned that our mutual friend, Toni (late of the Westsail s/v Full Circle) had opened a canvas shop in town. So I went in and there was Toni.

Toni when we met him in April '05

I re-introduced myself and he remembered me right away. He asked about Jane and when I said that she had decided not to make this trip, he said "That's a mighty pretty wife to leave behind." He runs this canvas shop and is into motorcycles now. BMW's. He has taken quite a few good trips. I told him about my best trip (playing one-up-man-ship) which was the boarder-to-board run from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Coast Highway.

20 Nov 07, Tuesday 0800 hrs.
Beaufort, NC (ICW Milepost 205)
Anchored in the harbor

I was out pretty late last night. When I took on fuel yesterday I forgot to get water. So I dug out my water jugs and dinghied in to the dock for my first dinghy-based water run of the trip. Just as wet and time-consuming as I remembered it to be. I managed to get about 20 gallons into the forward tank, and 6 into the aft tank. That should hold me until I head off shore from Cape Fear. I'll fill up before I head out.

I stowed the dinghy on the foredeck for the first time. Normally I stow it behind the mast and over the main cabin. It fits there well and there is even a bar over the companionway hatch to hold the dink up off the hatch. The only problem with stowing it there is that it obstructs the forward view greatly. I can not sit down while driving Galena. Well, I can. But then I can't see very well at all.

I've seen many people put their dinghy on the foredeck so I thought I would try it. I don't think I like it up there. Sure, I can see a little better than when it's on the cabin top, but not better enough to make up for the effort of getting it on the foredeck and the interference with the staysail. So next time it goes on deck it goes back on the cabin top. Well, the next time will probably be when I head off shore and then I'll probably deflate it and store it all rolled up behind the mast.

It's foggy this morning, but it's also 0800hrs and everything is ready to go. So I'll wait and see if the fog burns off in time to make it down to Mile Hammock anchorage at ICW Milepost 144. That anchorage is actually part of a training facility for Camp Lejeune.

Heading south moves one from right to left in this picture.

20 November 07
Mile Hammock Anchorage (ICW milepost 244.5)
Trip 55nm, Total 402, Eng 1382

The trip here was sunny, cold and damp with fog, fog, and more fog all along the ICW.

I left Beaufort when I thought the fog was lifting; about 0830hrs. As I went south to the Beaufort inlet I realized that I had left too soon. The fog had not lifted much at all. The fog was just thin enough for me to make out the next daymark just as I was passing the current daymark. And with the narrow channel I was in that was not comfortable at all. I did have a rough route programmed into my GPS and that helped some. At least I knew generally where to look for the next daymark.

I made it into Beaufort's main inlet channel, deep and wide. But also heavy with ship traffic. I scurried across it and then into the ICW proper again. As I made it past the Beaufort turning basin the fog started to thin again and I felt OK about motoring down the channel. By then it was about 0930 hrs,.

At every ocean inlet I hit thick fog. There were several boats ahead of me (I motor fairly slow even for a sailboat) and I could hear them talking on the radio about entering and leaving fog banks. The worse was just before this anchorage. At that point I could only make out the banks of the channel on either side and could see very little ahead or behind me. I just kept Galena in the center and hoped for the best. Some of the inlets have special, floating markers marking the shoals that form on each side of the inlet and encroach on the channel. At some of these inlets the water was only 5-ft at MLW. The buoys were coming up on me out of the fog quite suddenly calling for radical maneuvering; and Galena is not built for radical maneuvering.

Also, since there is a lot of current flowing into or out of these ocean inlets my speed would change dramatically as I passed each one. If the tidal current was flowing in, then I'd be making only about 4 kts as I approached the inlet. Then the bottom would rise up until the depth was only 8 feet or less as I crossed the shoal on that edge of the inlet. Then the inflow of water would kick Galena around dramatically making it difficult to steer a straight course across the inlet. As I passed the inlet proper the depth would increase to 20 feet or more. Then the bottom would rapidly come back to only about 8 feet as I passed over the shoal on the opposite side of the inlet. Then Galena would accelerate as we were swept along with the tidal current and our speed would jump to about 7 kts; until we started to approach the next inlet.

Over and over we went through that. That's the ICW. It makes planning where you will be at sundown difficult.

As I turned into the Mile Hammock anchorage I counted 16 boats in here. Plenty of room for more. A nice quiet place to rest for the night.

21 November 07, 0600 hrs.
Mile Hammock Anchorage (ICW milepost 144.5)

I'm up and drinking my morning coffee. I've made some for the thermos and a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. I should be at Wrightsville Beach this afternoon.

There's a 10kt breeze from the West, the air is 58° with clear skies. No sign of fog today.

21 November 07, 1440hrs
Wrightsville Beach, NC
Anchored near the bridge
Trip: 35nm, Total 437, Eng 1390 hrs.

Extraordinarily uneventful trip here.
I saw some landmarks from previous trips. I saw the big pink house with the lighthouse on the lawn.
I saw the house with the big giraffe on the lawn.

I zoomed by an Island Packet that had just passed me. As I looked over the guy said "Bridge" and pointed to his watch. Shit! Here I was racing toward a bridge that was going to only open on the hour; and I was going to miss the next opening by 10 min. So I, too, backed way down and idled toward the bridge. Better to drive along at 2.5 kts than to have to do circles at the bridge. The first is boring. The second is too much work and runs the very real risk of running aground and you circle and circle.

Coming into this anchorage was no problem. I remembered to give the G21 and G19 daymarks a very wide berth and didn't see the 4.9 foot depths that I saw last time I came in here. The wind and current were both from the south and I dropped the Bruce anchor with about 100 feet of rode.

The Bruce has been working very well for me. I've only had it for a few months. Previously I had two 35-pound CQR's on the bow. Now I've replaced my primary (starboard) CQR with a 33# Bruce. At first I was having some problem with it. Now I believe those problems were with the anchorage bottom, not the anchor.

I'll launch the dink and go to town tomorrow.

22 November 07,
Still at Wrightsville Beach, NC

I was sitting on the coach roof trimming my beard when I was hailed by Bill (s/v Memento Mori, a 42-ft Pearson ketch). We shouted over the noise of the wind for a while. He summers his boat in Salisbury, MD and has a summer home in Vermont. He's heading down to the Keys for the winter.

24 November 07, 0800
Still at Wrightsville Beach, NC

I'll stay here until Sunday or Monday. I want to go off shore from Cape Fear (I really hate that name) to Charleston. And the weather sucks until Tuesday. Then I should have three days of good weather. Although I should make it in about 30hrs, I don't want to push up against known bad weather. I also don't want to leave on the promise of "improving conditions." I've done that before the the conditions never improved as promised. So now I wait until I see the weather I want before venturing out.

This morning it's 34° outside, 55° inside. I'm eating egg sandwiches and drinking coffee huddled in front of my little propane heater. The wind is West at 15-kts, gusting to 20.

Yesterday was a really bad day.
I woke up at 0400 to a beeping sound. I thought it might be the anchor drag alarm. I jumped from my berth and scrambled to the companionway ladder. As I passed the nav station I glanced at the GPS display and saw that I was right where I should be. It also occurred to me that I had not even set the drag alarm. I looked around outside and everything was where it should be. I went back down the ladder and found the source: the inverter. I had fallen asleep with the computer off, but plugged in to the inverter and had left the inverter on. It has a "low voltage" alarm and that was sounding. I unplugged it and checked the Link 20 battery monitor. My main house batteries were down to 10.5 volts. The wind gusted and the Air-X Marine wind generator spun up and the voltage jumped to 13. I switched off the wind generator and watched the voltage drop to 11, to 10, to 9.5 volts.... all in 3 minutes with only about 4 amps of internal lights on.

I had seen this before: Miami, December 2004. On our first trip south we got to Miami and had our house batteries go bad. Shit! Well, there's a West Marine store just down the road. Wait: What's the prorated warranty on these things? 3-yrs. How old are they? 3-yrs. Again, Shit!

What did they cost? Oh yeah, about $200 each as I recall.

So about 0900 I walked down to the West Marine store. It's about 1.5 miles west of here. When I got there ticker-shock floored me. The same 4D flooded batteries were now $280. They did have two in stock, and I did need them. But, Damn! I walked out a bit stunned and called Jane. I told her the tale. She was supportive. Yes, you need them. Yes, you have to pay the price. She asked, "How will you get them back to Galena and into the boat?"

My first plan was to move Galena into a marina and then take a taxi with the batteries from West Marine to the marina. I walked back to the anchorage and stopped at a couple of marinas. They were both full. It seems there's some sort of floating festival of lights on Saturday and everyone is in town.

I went back to Galena and sat there pouting for a couple of hours. Finally I figured I could walk back to West Marine, buy the batteries, and then either get a taxi (this town must have them, right?) or ask a patron for a ride. Then, using extra life preservers under the batteries to protect the soft air-deck of my dinghy, I could carefully place the batteries into the dinghy and take them out to Galena. There I could rig up some sort of block and tackle and lift them up to the deck.

Well, about $600 later I was in West Marine and asking some guy for a ride for me and my batteries. He said, "Sure, I'll get my truck." He even helped me carry them down to the dinghy dock when we got there. Nice guy. He said he understood the problems of cruising and was only too glad to help.
Then very carefully I placed the batteries into the dinghy and onto the life preservers. I could just see me loosing my balance and dropping them into the water. That would really suck!

Slowly I motored out to Galena and tied up along side about amidships, at the chainplates. I rigged a bridal and used the tightening blocks on the running backstays to lift them up to the lifelines.

Here's a picture of one of the batteries hanging from the tackle. I wanted to document this for the log. But I didn't like to leave the thing hanging there. When you're single-handing taking pictures of the interesting stuff is not really practical.

There I could snatch them up and place them on deck. Finally I moved them back to the cockpit and then took a break. I had about convinced myself to wait until tomorrow (today) to install them, but, hell, I was already sweaty, cold, and dirty. It was only 1500 hrs and what's another hour of work? So I installed them.

For the uninitiated, that means:
1- shut everything off
2- get out some tools
3- lift out the cockpit floor
4- disconnect the old batteries
5- lift out the old batteries (Much easier said than done. Remember these things weigh 130 pounds each and they are not that easily accessible.)
6- clean all the fittings
7- place new batteries in holders (see note on item 5, above)
8- attach all the wires
9- turn everything back on and stand back, looking for sparks and hot wires.
10- close up the cockpit floor and put away the tools.

It took 45 minutes. I cleaned myself up. I fixed a little R&CL (Rum and Crystal Light). I was in bed and asleep by 7PM.

Today I'm looking at the weather window for my off shore run on Tuesday. Still looks good. Although I'm a little apprehensive about it. I've actually never been on the ocean alone. This will be a day-night-day. I should be able to stay awake the whole time and the weather looks good. I'll only be about 10-miles off shore.

I'm checking my GPS waypoints and routes to ensure they miss all the lights and other charted obstructions. I'm making sure I have the lights charted properly. I have a bailout route to get me into Georgetown, SC if I have problems. That's about halfway to Charleston. I think I'm about ready. I'll go into a marina in Southport the day before I leave and get a lot of sleep and make sure I have full fuel and water tanks. Should be a piece of cake. Still....

Tomorrow, Sunday, I'll run down to Cape Fear and get ready for an off shore leg. Oh, and last night I got a call from Capt Ron and the guys at my marina. They were having a little get together as they winterized their boats. It was nice to talk the with gang again. Ron said that Tom was in Belhaven, so he's on his way again. That's good to hear.

On my last trip in the dink from the dinghy dock to Galena the engine started to sputter. Sounded like it was loading up with fuel. I made it back to Galena, but just barely. Then I smelled gasoline. I saw it dripping out of the bottom of the outboard engine. Damn! And I just had that thing tuned up!
So I take off the cover and find fuel just pouring out of the top of the carburetor. Looks like a stuck float valve to me. I'll have to take it apart and clean it out. Later. I won't need it until I get to Charleston. So it can wait.

24 November 07, 2200
Still at Wrightsville Beach, NC

The parade of lights was tonight. The route was right around this little anchorage. There were only about 6 or 7 cruisers anchored here before dark. Then the spectator fleet began to arrive. Everything from small open runabouts to 60-foot motor yachts filled the place.

One boat in particular dropped a hook right next to me. It was one of those big motor yachts with the enclosed fantail up high over an aft stateroom. About 55 or 60 feet in length. Nice boat. I told the bowman to tell the captain I was lying to my rode and that I had 100 feet of heavy chain out and that my anchor was just off my beam. I suggested that they not anchor there. The bowman made some rude comment and then ignored me. Then another, similar yacht came over and rafted-up with the first.

I watched about 40 boats parade by all light up. Some playing music. All Christmas and nautical themes.

Then there were going to be fireworks.

I went below and didn't come back on deck until I felt a change in the wind and Galena turned her bow westward. I stuck my head out and what I did see? The brightly lit stern windows of two big powerboats swinging down on me. Everyone was inside drinking and partying. They were only about 70 feet away and coming right at me at about a quarter of a knot. I grabbed my flashlight and started swinging it's beam across the aft windows of the yachts. Finally one lady looked up and pointed. Then the guys started getting up and got on jackets and came out onto the side decks. I said, "Getting a little close, don't you think?" One of the guys said, "Yeah, getting close."
I asked, "What's your plan?"
He said, "Guess we'll wait and see what happens."
I said, "What's going to happen is that you're going to hit me!"
He said something about me being an ass about it.
By now there are about six guys standing on the side deck. One has grabbed a fender (about the size of Galena) and is maneuvering it into place. Two others have boat hooks.
Now they are actually fending off Galena with boat hooks. I again ask, "What are you going to do?" No reply. We're only 10 feet away but no one will talk to me.
There was a small runabout that was tied to the back of one of the yachts. A guy (named Tom) and his wife were just leaving the big boats and heading home when this all started. He came over and asked me if there was something he could do? I suggested that he help the big boats. He said, "I'm not saying you don't have rights, Captain, but how about if I just pull your stern around and out of their way?"
I suggested he pull them. But I agreed that they had too much windage.
By now their anchor rode was over Galena's road and under her keel.

So I let him try to pull me around. He did it a bit but then he got to a point where he just couldn't pull Galena's big keel any further against the current. Back I went. The rail-meat on the yachts were getting pretty annoying with their comments about how I was messing up their evening. So I figured I'd just move. I fire up the engine and start cranking in my chain. Right away, up come's their chain/rope rode. I go to get my knife figuring I'll just cut the damn line. But Tom in the runabout says, "No, don't do that. Give the rode to me and I'll pull them away from you. About then the second yacht breaks away and the first yacht starts to move forward toward Galena and toward his anchor. Again a bout of fending off as he slides by Galena and finally, he's away and free. Then, since his anchor is up, he immediately starts drifting down on my again. Finally, after an hour of this, he's gone.

And people wonder why sail boaters dislike powerboats?

Again, this would have been a great time to take pictures. But I was busy with my boat hook.

25 November 2007
Just sat here at Wrightsville Beach. The weather was lousy: Windy, Raining, and Cold. So I was lazy and just sat here.

26 November 2007
Southport, SC
Trip 27 nm, Total 464 nm, Engine 1395 hrs

I finally got out of Wrightsville Beach! I was there for five full days; and I don't even really like the place. Some was for weather, some for that battery problem, but mostly I was just being lazy. But, hey! I'm cruising now. I'm allowed to be lazy, aren't I?

Last night was a bit strange. A warm front came in from the ocean and the temperature went up to about 66 degrees at 0200. And there was no wind for the first time since I got here. But there was a steady rain. Then by 0330 the wind was howling again and the rain was driving across the anchorage.

I woke up again at 0630 this morning. Everything was ready to go. I had stowed the dink on the deck, the outboard was on it's bracket, the other deck cargo was secured.

There was a light breeze out of the southwest and a drizzle of rain. But not much fog. I hauled anchor and as I was scampering back to the cockpit I heard a shout from Bill on s/v Memento Mori. He had stuck his head out just to say, "Bye."

The trip today was uneventful. As I went past G-155 and G-155A I read 10.8-feet of water. The notices had said it was down to about 6-ft. Then I checked the tide chart and, yes, I was passing there at the top of a 5-foot high tide. So I dropped an e-mail to Tom to plan his departure from Wrightsville Beach accordingly.

I went into and out of patchy fog all day long. But nothing significant until I reached the point where the ICW enters the Cape Fear River. Then I hit serious fog; the worse I'd seen yet. I could only see a hundred yards or so. The the rain started to come down in buckets! While I was going from Green Buoy to Green Buoy down the right side of the channel, I was using my GPS route to guide me.

Then I heard a fog horn. Two minutes later I heard it again, much louder; closer. Something big was coming upriver towards me. I moved further to the right of center of channel. When I saw the next buoy I went outside of it. I figured anything big enough to have a fog horn like the one I was hearing had to stay in the channel. So if I were outside of the channel, I'd be OK. Then I heard the engines. And again the fog horn. Immensely loud. Then I saw a dark shape. Fortunately it was well off to my port side. But sure enough. It was a huge ocean freighter steaming up-river. As it passed I breathed a sigh of relief.

Shortly after the freighter and I passed, the rain stopped. Then the fog lifted. Was that some kind of test?

Southport Marina is a new-looking place. Lots of construction going on. New floating docks. Only $1.75 per foot. Wide slips, too.

Here Galena sits on a bulkhead in Southport Marina.

I walked across the street to PJ's Restaurant and Market. I never did see the market part of PJ's but they did serve a good burger.

This is the diner across the street from the marina.

I'm watching the weather forecasts. My off-shore leg may have to be postponed. The bad weather that was suppose to be here on Monday and then clear out on Monday night is now going to be here Monday night and clear out on Tuesday morning. I've been burnt before believing that good weather will be here in a couple hours, only to find that the bad weather wanted to say around for another day or so.

So I'll head down the ditch to Georgetown, SC and see about going out there for a 60-mile leg off shore to Charleston.

27 November 2007
Barefoot Landing Marina (ICW Milepost 357)
Trip 39 nm, Total 504 nm, Engine 1404 hrs

What was once a free dock, no services, expect to raft up, is now a 'marina' but with limited services. i.e.: Electricity and water only. But it's only $1.50/ft. Across the channel is the Barefoot Resort Marina with everything you might want and they charge $2.25 per foot.

Along this stretch of the ICW you see some really nice marinas. You also see some that you might want to pass up:

This is one marina I wouldn't stay at.

You also see some very nice homes. This one was directly across from Shallotte Inlet.

The run from Southport to here seemed to be all against the current. I was making only 3.5 kts in some areas (especially around Lockwoods Folly (ICW Milepost 320)

At the Sunset Beach Bridge I was passed by s/v Ling-Ling and s/v DreamCatcher. This bridge is a pontoon swing bridge and it uses a cable to pull itself out of the way. So you have to wait for the operator to signal that he has lowered the cable before going through the opening. DreamCatcher didn't know that. He started toward the bridge as soon as it was out of the way and just about ran into the stern of Ling-Ling, who did know about having to wait for the signal.

Then, just a few miles later, at the junction of Little River with the ICW I saw s/v Ling-Ling suddenly make a hard turn to port. That would take her out to sea but through a rather shallow inlet. As I wondered whether or not she had just misread the channel markers, Dream Catcher followed her. I didn't know if they were just traveling together and doing a little exploring or if they were lost. But as I passed through the junction and continued down the ICW I noticed that they both had stopped and started to turn around. Watching them as long as I could I think I saw them motor up the Little River, past the ICW. They never showed up behind me after that. I don't know what happened to them.

At about ICW Milepost 350 you get into what is affectionately referred to as "The Rockpile." The channel is very narrow but pretty deep at 13-feet. The channel is cut through sharp rock. The channel is just barely wide enough for two boats to pass, as long as you don't mind getting within a couple of feet of one another. There's a sign saying "Danger. Rocks. Stay in Channel." Yeah, no kidding?

This is what the sides look like and you're very close to them.

I tied Galena up at the Barefoot Landing dock and took a little walk around the outlet shops. I had my customary burger and a beer and then came back to Galena and worked on the outboard motor. Remember that it had gas spewing out of the top of the carb. So I took off the carb, removed the float bowl, played with the float valve, blew in the fuel inlet, etc. The I put it back together and connected the fuel line. I pumped the priming bulb until the carb was full. There was no fuel coming out of the top of the carb. Fixed. Just as I suspected there was something holding the float valve open. Should be ok now.

So here sits Galena at the not-free-anymore dock at Barefoot Landing.

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