Mon 30 Apr 2012
Anchored in Church Creek, SC
It was unusual to sleep late (0630 for Duane) and still have a few hours before departure, but to leave at 0700 was to subject ourselves to the worst of the adverse current most of the way. Leaving at 0900, we had very little beneficial current, but not quite as much against us, plus we had more of the SE wind in or favor, since the wind typically builds throughout the day and lessens at sunset.
We ran a little over 8 hours today and had a very uneventful day except for a few notable items. When we went through the swing bridge at Beaufort, there were two other sailboats of comparable size that were running under motor alone (as were we) at the same speed as us. They, however, were staying right on the "recommended track" and we were cutting the corners where it seemed appropriate. As mentioned earlier, when you have an adverse current, it is best to stay in the shallower water. Before long, we were quite a ways ahead. We also deployed the headsail more frequently (it does take more effort to make all the adjustments) and that helped, too. Before long they were out of sight behind us.
Despite all those great efforts, the current was against us so much that we averaged 30% fewer miles per hour than normal, and that meant that the Captain's fuel management estimate was not very good. We were blessed to get good wind to help us near the latter third of the run, so we reached our anchorage with the fuel gauge still on the positive of empty. Our plan is to re-fuel at the marine service facility just 10 statute miles farther from our anchorage, since waiting for the 22 miles to Charleston might be cutting it too close.
The anchorage is quite large and empty, except for us; the anchor is holding well in the mild current and winds, and life is good. Dinner was salmon fillet in a homemade lemon/caper/wine/butter sauce with rice pilaf and mushrooms, plus steamed broccoli. It was fantastic and devoured 'con mucho gusto.'
The evening in the cockpit was very relaxing; we are noticing that the amount of time between sunset and dark is increasing, as expected as we get father from the equator. Clyde the cat is definitely enjoying his time on deck in the evening, as are we, although Diane is in her flannel nightie.
Tomorrow will see us in Charleston with our good friends Vern and Rose (and their dog Salty). We met them in the Abacos, Bahamas in 2008 and have gotten together once a year or so since then. Vern has so kindly offered to drag out his tools so that we can tackle that camshaft replacement together. We are thinking that we may be 3 days or more in Charleston, but who really knows. We are still ahead of schedule for time so far, and this would be an important repair to get done.
Speaking of repairs, several things have started giving me concern: there seems to be excessive vibration from the propeller, so I suspect the cutless bearing needs to be replaced. Also, the dripless shaft seal is leaking and the manufacturer recommends replacing the bellows every 6 years; ours is overdue. Both those jobs require hauling the boat out of the water. I will have to give some serious thought to where and when, because I really don't want to go the rest of the cruise with that prop vibrating like that.
Diane has mastered the routine of reprogramming the TV for each new location we visit and is now watching Dancing with the Stars. I am preparing to go topside and watch God's stars for a while before bed.
Sun 29 Apr 2012
Docked at Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
[photo: one of the many historic homes in this town.]
The evening was comfortably cool and quiet as far as wind and waves, but some place ashore was playing loud music until 0200. Once the hatches were closed, you barely heard it, so no problem. Duane was so relaxed that he slept until 0700, a rarity. It is forecast to reach 85F today, similar to yesterday.
At 0900 we borrowed the courtesy car to go to the local grocery store and K-Mart. It had a few rattles that were disconcerting, but it got us there and back OK. We now have more fresh veggies and protein for the next 5 days or so. Needing to get to a store every 5 days or so it is not even close to the old days when refrigeration was almost unheard of and people had to shop every day for that day's meals, but a lot closer than the modern American's food shopping habits.
After a very light lunch, we got on the bikes and rode a number of miles through the working man's part of Beaufort, stopping at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store for some coveted mint. It was uncertain if the mint would pass muster for the 4 guests we would have later for mint juleps, so a sample was required. It was good.
At 1700, our cruising guests arrived and we had delightful conversations for almost 90 minutes. Everyone left to their own plans, while we prepared dinner. It was a simple meal of shrimp wrapped in bacon over a bed of rice pilaf with fresh sautéed portabella mushrooms and fresh steamed broccoli. I tease, but we really do eat well on the boat.
The after-dinner glow in the cockpit with a fresh breeze was very invigorating. A little music and some recapping of the glorious day, and it was time for bed. I should note that at noon today, it was 4 weeks since our departure. It took a while to get used to the fact that this was not a several week vacation, but now we are definitely in cruise mode.
Supplemental - meeting the ActiveCaptain founders
When we arrived at the Beaufort marina, who should be there getting ready to depart but Jeff and Karen Siegel, the founders of ActiveCaptain. They have a gorgeous 53 foot DeFever and are traveling back to Maine for the season with their two dogs. We had a short chat and they offered for us to visit them up in Maine, which we fully intend to do.
For those not familiar, ActiveCaptain is what Jeff likes to call "social navigation." The site has NOAA charts that you can scale and pan easily, and then you can view the satellite imagery to see how it looks in real life, not to mention shoal areas, mooring fields, etc. Best of all, there is up-to-date descriptive info about important items such as bridges, locks, tricky spots, marinas, and cruiser-recommended anchorages. It is active in the sense that cruisers are continually adding their reviews and comments about everything, so the information is not stale.
We use ActiveCaptain and Claiborne Young's Cruiser's Net a lot to help make our passages easier and safer.
Sat 28 Apr 2012
Docked at Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
[photo: one of many historic homes here, plus a passing carriage tour.
It was a really great night for sleeping; the temperature and humidity were ideal and the weather was settled such that the captain had no concerns. Due to the strong currents we would face being so near to Port Royal Sound, I cajoled Diane into an early departure to time it for the least foul current. Surprisingly, we had more wind than forecast so early and had a little benefit for the last third of the passage.
When we got the downtown Beaufort waterfront, we saw the seawall at low tide and I decided for the marina. The wall had many nasty, sharp oysters and with a tidal range of 7 feet, there was no good way for us to get on/off the boat anywhere but high tide. We are on the most outside dock, which will be good to catch the breezes, for it is a very warm day today (over 87F for the high). Nevertheless, we got ourselves and bikes ready for a ride around town.
Even though we had seen the town about 8 years ago by car, it was great ride slowly around all the quiet, shaded streets of the historic district and take it all in again. After that we extended out to other parts of town to explore. We wound up near the marina having a cold glass of draft beer that tasted really good. Between leaving and returning to the dock, Duane ran into at least a half dozen chatty sailors and enjoyed some conversation. Diane let Duane take both bikes back the short distance to the boat while she window-shopped (true; she did not buy a thing) in the many stores downtown.
We both thought a little nap time sounded good, and then we showered for the evening. At 1700, Tom and Kaye from Shearwater came over to share a beverage and some snacks and good conversation. We now have another place we can visit off the Potomac River if we choose.
Dinner was at Panini's, right off the riverside park, and it was great. We did as we often do and just ordered a soup and some "small plates." We ordered 4 drinks, an incredible calamari dish, shrimp wrapped in bacon, yummy crab bisque, and a personal pizza and it was all wonderful. We took "home" about a third of it and the bill was under $50.
White there, a very large and boisterous group was giving the wait staff fits trying to sort things out. One of the ladies left the table and Diane commented something about wearing a sundress with Uggs boots. I had no idea what she was talking about (what man notices a woman's shoes?), but the lady at the table behind us must have made a similar observation, so Diane sidled over her to share the moment.
I must mention that many years ago I treated Diane to a terrific experience staying in a beautiful cottage at the Beaufort Inn, and a scrumptious dinner, plus some romantic mint juleps on the porch. I offered to have us stay at the Inn again, but Diane declined. I then offered to dine there tonight, but when we checked, they were closed for a private party. Regardless, we have waterside accommodations and our "porch" has a terrific view.
Diane is watching her first cable TV aboard the boat as I type this. I haven't checked the news since we left. Is the world still getting on as usual?
I was reflecting today that it has been a while since thoughts of the Punta Gorda home and my workplace have entered into my mind. I still miss the people we have temporarily left behind, but it is now a whole new world we live in right now.
Fri 27 Apr 2012
Anchored N end of Skull Creek, SC (Hilton Head)
[photo: At the northern tip of the island looking W]
It seems that I have not quite gotten used to how boats can move while at anchor in a strong current with an opposing wind. I thought for sure that we had dragged anchor during the early part of the evening and it caused me some anxiety for a while, but finally I realized all was well and we both had a very restful sleep.
It was so restful, that after going to bed at 2130, I was wide awake at 0430. I used that time to study the available resources for important trip info, such as tide heights for shallow stretches, strength and direction of currents, distances between likely stops, bridge opening restrictions, etc. I had decided early on not to try to pre-plan all this before we left, thinking it would be a simple task to take it a week at a time. It turns out that it takes me about 30-40 minutes per day of travel. That's not a bad thing, just an observation.
This morning, chef Duane made scrambled eggs and bacon on a small roll, along with some fresh fruit. We enjoy our cereal and fruit in the morning, but this was a special treat. Diane elected to defrost the refrigerator and then we got our stuff assembled for a long day ashore with the bicycles.
When I telephoned to ask permission to use their small-boat dock and offered to pay a reasonable fee, the new management at the Skull Creek Marina said until they get a policy in place, we were welcome to use it for free. They also got a bag of trash and some recyclable items in the bargain.
Bicycling around this section of Hilton Head was one of the most picturesque and delightful biking experiences we have ever had. They have mostly asphalt trails paralleling the main roads that wind through a dense population of mature oaks and other trees. The many trails were mostly shaded and had the fragrance of so many pine cones and occasionally jasmine and other very aromatic fauna.
We biked a little over 8 miles through just a portion of the Hilton Head Plantation (one of several very large gated communities) and enjoyed every minute of it. The bluff trail at the northern tip of the island was somewhat soft sand at times, but we made it through. The strange part was that if you leave through the gate, you need to either be a resident or have a pass to get back in. Since we are not technically guests of the marina, we did not have a pass, so we elected not to leave.
On the way back, we knew we had passed two nice looking restaurants, but neither of them serve lunch, just dinner. Back at Diva Di, I used the Internet to check them out and we would have been in for at least $50 for a simple lunch for two, so maybe it was a good thing. Diane is reading her book on the deck in her swimsuit under gorgeous blue skies and a light breeze.
Reflecting further on the island, since neither of us had ever visited here, we were completely unprepared for the natural beauty we saw. Keeping in mind we only experienced one section, everything we saw was clean, neat, and well-maintained. While some of the homes we passed were in the VERY nice category, most were relatively modest homes that were, again, just really attractive in the woodsy setting.
For those readers who may not be cruisers, I should explain that depending upon the size of your refrigerator and freezer compartments, and how well they truly maintain the appropriate temperature, you are wise to limit how many perishables you have aboard at any one time. Similarly, some vegetables keep well enough when whole, but spoil more rapidly once cut. Unless you have a fussy eater aboard, you often wind up having the same foods several times in succession, although in different guise at the chef's discretion. Fortunately, Diane does a wonderful job at provisioning for us; we rarely have any waste and we eat well.
It is now almost 1900, dinner is done and we are ready for some time in the cockpit with well over an hour of sunlight left. Tomorrow is Beaufort, SC (Byew-fort, not Bo-fort) and perhaps two days there. Hope all our blog followers are doing well and enjoying the cruise with us. Despite a few setbacks here and there, we are having a wonderful time.
Thanks for all the support and compliments. I am grateful it is working.
As for Matthew, that is a very good suggestion but it is a complcation I will probably not add. I hope I don't regret that decision. Surely, if I were designing this as a production system, your idea of a fail-safe would be excellent.