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The Voyages of Aria
Float Plan For Spring Cruise

The forecast has come into focus for our spring cruise, and with it, our destination; looks like we'll be sailing to Beaufort, NC. SW winds will dominate through Monday, at which point a front will turn them around to the North, then East through Friday, meaning we get to go "downhill" both ways! We're using the 12-mile slue once again to cross Frying Pan Shoals. Tomorrow night at sea will be c-c-cold.

The float plan is filed here. On board, it's just Tammy and I. You can follow our track in real-time on our SPOT link at right, "Aria's SPOT Real-Time Tracking." Thanks for watching! I'll try to post something each day.

1100 Depart
1800 Enter Frying Pan Slue
1900 Exit Frying Pan Slue

1200 Arrive Beaufort Shipping Lane
1330 Arrive Beaufort Docks
DAY Explore Beaufort

DAY Explore Beaufort

0800 Depart Beaufort
0900 Arrive Morehead City Marina
DAY Explore Morehead City

0800 Depart Morehead City
1100 Anchor at Cape Lookout Bight

0300 Depart Cape Lookout Bight
1700 Anchor at Wrightsville Beach

0600 Depart Wrightsville Beach
1100 Arrive Bald Head Island

0800 Depart Bald Head Island
1600 Arrive Little River

Float plans
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Spring Cruise to Beaufort. But which Beaufort?

On Saturday Tammy and I depart for a seven-day cruise to Beaufort. But which Beaufort - NC or SC?

If winds are southerly, we will sail north; if they're northerly, we'll head south. A pair of High-Pressure systems, plus a cold front, will each move through these waters smack in the middle of our departure window, so - though forecasters are making educated guesses - I recognize them as just that, guesses. Come Saturday, Tammy and I may simply sail to the Little River sea bouy, put our faces in the wind and decide whether to turn left or right. Once decided, we're committed for 24-36 hours offshore.

The NC cruise is a pick-up-and-move affair that includes Beaufort, Morehead City, Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout Bight, Wrightsville Beach and Bald Head island. The SC cruise includes longer stays at Beaufort and Hilton Head before returning. The SC cruise is farther, involving an extra half-day offshore sailing each way.

So in the meantime, I plan two cruises - two stacks of charts, two dog-eared cruising guides, two float plans and no dockage reservations.

Frankly, the whole situation rather pleases me.

US-East Coast
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Southport Cruise - Good Friends, Good Sailing (Video included)
03/04/2013, Cape Fear, NC

James Dodd and I took Aria to Southport for the weekend, where we met up with Ben Edkins and Danny Caswell. We arrived in Southport at 1500, tied up Aria at the marina, then jumped aboard "Winds of Freedom," Ben's Beneteau 36.7 to crew for Ben, who was trying out a new gennaker rig. Two boats in one day - a sailor's menage a trois, you might say. We had dinner at Mr. P's, then cigars and scotch aboard Aria.

On Sunday, JD and I cast off from Southport Marina at 7:20am and came through the Western Bar Channel into NNW winds at 15kts and gusty. Thrilled, we put up the sails before we were even out of the channel, and began making 6.9kts at times, directly at the Little River Sea buoy. We tucked a reef into the main for comfort in the gusts, and I went below and cooked up a full breakfast - western scrambled eggs, sausage links, orange juice and coffee (served in dog bowls, of course). By the time we arrived in Little River, winds were gusting as high as 28kts and had moved NW, forcing us on a course well outside the sea buoy. By this time, we had doused the staysail, tucked in a second reef in the main and one reef in the genoa. Abeam of the sea buoy at 1400, and faced with another hour of tacking back to the jetties, we'd decided that we'd had enough fun for the day. We fired up the engine and motorsailed home.

It was a great weekend of good friends and good sailing! I shot a video, which can be viewed here or on the Aria's Youtube link at right. I also posted some pics in the gallery album, "East Coast Sailing Misc."

US-East Coast
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Michael's Secrets of Winter Sailing on Long Bay

I guess I should thank Hurricane Sandy. Because of her, I was unable to take "Aria" to the Bahamas this year and discovered, instead, the joys of winter sailing on Long Bay. Since December, I've logged 480nm, including several trips to Southport and Bald Head, crossed Frying Pan Shoals into Onslow Bay, spent two night on the hook at Bird Island and made numerous day sails. I leave tomorrow for Southport. Honestly, it has been some of the best sailing I've ever done in these waters. Winds are consistently 10-15kts and except for the casino boats I have had the ocean and the anchorages all to myself. Over the course of this delightful season of winter sailing, I have developed a few rules.

Commit yourself. I wimped out on one particularly cold morning, and I regretted it later. I have never regreted having gone out, once I was on the water. But getting over the hurdle of the cold takes some fortitude. Inviting crew is the obvious way to give yourself no escape. But crew is hard to find this time of year, so I spent a lot of time single-handing.
Remove the canvas. Radiant heat is your friend. I was shocked how unimportant air temperature is once I was on the water with the sun shining. I literally hold my face to the rays like a cat sunning himself.
Depart late, arrive early. Normally, I love to get an early start, but in the winter, you need sunshine. When the sun starts to get low, I start to shiver. In January and February, I would leave at 9am and be back no later than 4pm.
Avoid night sailing. I wanted to do a Gulf Stream trip, but I knew I would need at 5-man crew so that night watches could be short. I never found the crew.
Long johns. You can't have too many layers. You can always take them off later.
Good hat. I have an insulated hunter's cap, with flaps for the ears. I look like Elmer Fudd, but if my head is warm, then I'm warm.
Good heater: I have a diesel heater. Under sail, I rarely use it. The fan disturbs my peace. At anchor, it's essential.
Protect the Prop: You cannot under any circumstances get in the water, so be extra vigilant for crab pots and your own fishing line. I don't even want to think about what I'd have to do to cut away the snarl.
Reef sooner. Cold air is more dense, and I could really feel the difference between 15kts of summer wind and 15kts of winter wind. Generally, I reefed sooner anyway, often sailing with staysail alone. It made sense to keep things as simple as possible, avoiding having to go forward, where the decks are wet and the possibility of a fall is greater.

Pretty simple stuff, especially when you consider that it unlocks another four months of sailing! As the days warm this month, I know I'll enjoy the warmer weather. But still, as this cruising ground fills up with stinkpots and jetskis, a part of me will be looking forward to the next season of winter sailing on Long Bay.

US-East Coast
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A Vote For Winter Sailing

If ever there was an argument for winter sailing, this is it: Winds 12kts out of the south, brilliant sunshine; Aria making 6.5 kts over flat seas; Tom Leonard and I with Long Bay entirely to ourselves; me cooking gumbo in the galley, eaten from my dog bowls and washed down with beer. Wow!

It was just a daysail, out and back. A chance to shake out the sails and sea-trial my alternator repair. We departed at 10:30am. As we left the marina, an ear-splitting alarm sounded. I checked my gauges. They were all reading fine. Tom rushed below to smell for smoke. My heart raced as I considered what needed to be done to quickly drop the anchor and kill the engine. I had a small rock jetty 3 feet off my beam, at that moment. This was happening at a bad time. What could it be? I went over my recent engine repair, and what hose I may have failed to replace. I imagined a bilge filled with coolant. And still the alarm rang. It was deafening. What the heck? Then, incredibly, a voice came over the radio, "This is a test of the emergency weather alert system..."

It was a radio test, and I was on Channel 03!

An hour later we cleared the jetties, raised the sails and killed the engine. We sailed two hours ESE, then turned around. In that time, winds built from 9 kts to 15kts by the time we were back "inside" at 3pm. Forecast was for 5-8kts. This is why I never cancel a sail because of a forecast for light winds.

The new genoa continues to impress me; the boat reaches easily to 45 degrees apparent, even higher if I hand steer, and we're making better than 50% of wind speed. Fast. Meanwnile, the alternator worked perfectly on its new mount.

It's not the Caribbean, but it could not have been a better day if it were.

US-East Coast
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Looming Engine Problems Resolved (photo essay included)

Tearing into the engine as I have in the last month revealed several looming problems - corrosion in the fresh water cooling system, improper fluid in the wrong amount in the transmission, and last but not least, an elongated pivot hole for the alternator. I had noticed that my V-belts were wearing faster than they should, and here was the culprit. I never would have found it until, one fine day, the alternator simply tore loose.

A bushing is the usual fix for an elongated hole, but drilling a straight hole would have been challenging, and removing the entire fixture, even more so. I needed a field solution. After consulting with my friends in the Island Packet forum, I came up with a design of two steel plates to "sandwich" the casing. I would use an unused nearby bolt hole for stability, and to share the vibration.

I had a local metal shop fabricate the plates out of 1/4 stainless steel stock. I also had them cut 1/4" off the spacer, since the support would now be thicker, thanks to the extra plates. Meanwhile, Tom Leonard helped me grind down the quarter-inch nubs around each hole. These ensured that the alternator's wheel was in line with the V-belt. During the repair, the main ground wire came loose from its crimp, yet another looming problem that would have bit me eventually for sure. I was able to replace that wire, and complete the repair in a few hours. I added a photo essay **HERE**.

While I waited for the plates to be made, I was able to flush the cooling system several times and drain, then refill the gearbox with motor oil (not transmission fluid!). I've added "survey engine" to my maintenance list. Nigel Caulder has a procedure, which looks like a good job for a rainy day.

Upgrades & Maintenance
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02/15/2013 | Britt Poston
Island Packets are great! We've seen your boat around Bird Island and that's how we found your blog. We have a beach house at Cherry Grove and go often. We are interested in a day cruise. Do you Charter?
02/17/2013 | Michael
Nice to meet you, Britt! Alas, we do not do charters. I hope to see you on the water sometime!

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