Blimp factory on the Pasquotank River
05/22/2011, On the way to the Great Dismal Swamp
May 20th, 2011
Weighing anchor at 6 a.m. we headed north up the Alligator and soon got some sail up to take advantage of a little west wind. After a few hours we were at its mouth which is notorious for shoaling. We continue to me amazed at why this is such a problem area for cruisers. If you stay between the navigational aids you are fine.... if you trust your instruments you will surely be aground.
In the Albemarle we found northwest winds at about 15 which made for some spray but compared to some of our trips across, was relatively calm. We dodged crab pots most of the way and then entered the Pasquotank River where we found even more pots in the way. Passing through Elizabeth City, we continued upstream to Goat Island where we anchored for the night. It was only 13:30, and could have made it all the way through the Dismal Swamp before dark but the admiral made the call. (By continuing we could have made Deltaville in three days form Oriental... but no such record for us this time.)
Tight squeeze in the Alligator-Pungo Canal
05/22/2011, Leaving Oriental, NC
May 19th, 2011
True to their word Steve and Kim were at the dock at 6 and we backed out of the slip not knowing which way the breeze and prop walk would take us. The bow gently came around to the port, as if we'd planned it, and we drove out of the fairway to the channel. With no wind to speak of, we headed north up the Neuse and then into the Bay river. From the Bay it was up Gale Creek, into the Hobucken canal to Goose Creek which dumps into the Pamlico River. We crossed the Pamlico and entered the Pungo for about 20 miles and then we entered the Alligator/Pungo for another 20. When we were about two miles from the Alligator and out of the canal, we met a tug pushing a barge. We were in one of the more narrow sections and there were submerged stumps on both sides of the canal so I called the Captain requesting a port to port meeting. He acknowledged and told us that he was going to head right at us and dodge to the starboard just as we met. It would be close, but he said but that we'd be ok. I pulled over as far as I dared and slowed as he barreled toward us. At the last minute he swerved as advertised and missed us by about 15 feet. Breathing hard, we entered the Alligator and anchored out of the wind after 73 nm and 11 hours of listening to the motor. The engine hasn't been on much this year and never for extended periods of time... I had a headache.
Jet fighters were after each other during the late afternoon and evening, screaming around us as they often do in this wilderness area. Once they quit at about 2200, we spent a quiet night in the exact spot where a few years ago we were bounced out of bed by 3 foot seas when the wind shifted to the north.
Big sailboat in Charleston
05/22/2011, Charleston, SC to Beaufort, NC
May 8th, 2011
Our plan was to leave with the tide which was around noon so we wasted some time preparing for the trip. From Charleston to Cape Fear and then up the River and the ICW to Wrightsville Beach should take us around 24 hours. There was a "back door" front heading south but it didn't really pack much punch. The forecast was for good wind through most of the trip but dying and clocking for the last 2 or three hours. The engine had been starting hard and once again I had to bleed the fuel line to finally get it to start.
We left the dock a little before noon and motored down the Ashley, past the Battery and across the Harbor toward Fort Sumter. Passing the fort, we made our way out through the jetty for what always seems to be miles, but before too long we had all our sails up on a beam reach at over 6K.
Sapphire enjoyed a very nice sail until about 17:00 when the winds died to the point where we turned on the engine. We motor sailed without incident until about 22:00 when the wind shifted to our nose and built to 24 knots. In an hour or so the seas had built to the point where they were crashing over our decks and stopping us dead in our tracks. We were averaging about 3.5 knots and pounding to the point that it wasn't fun anymore. I veered off our rum line to the west until the angle into the seas eased our ride a little. It was still like riding a rollercoaster but we weren't pounding quite so much and were making way to the tune of about 5 knots.
It was a long night. At around 04:00 the winds died down to their forecast range of 10 to 15 knots and our trip into Cape Fear was bearable. We rode the tide up river, through Snow's Cut, and entered the ICW for the last 12 miles of the trip, anchoring in Wrightsville beach at around 13:30. I went to bed.
May 10th, 2010
After a good night's sleep and some coffee and breakfast it was time to get serious about our non-starting engine. It has been slow to start for months, often taking three or four second cranks but lately it has been worse. I checked the lines in Charleston and changed one of the primary filters but everything seemed fine. Today there was air in the line again. My first thought was that the line to my vacuum gauge was at fault so I took it out of the system and found a length of fuel line to tie the primary filter system to directly to the fuel pump. After bleeding the line it started up much faster.
Steve and Kim were heading to the store so we dinghied along with them out to the ICW where we left the dinghies and then walked in to Harris Teeter's and West Marine to kill some time and pick up a few vegetables. On the way back later in the afternoon we stopped at a nice restaurant for a beer and a little snack before heading back to the boat. We tested the engine and after 6 hours of wait time .... it started.
May 11th, 2011
After coffee I test started the engine again and it wouldn't fire. %##&@¬- I thought I had it fixed. Trying to be logical, I tried to figure out what had happened lately to make it start worse than it had for the last few months. When I checked, there was still air in the line so I took all the hose clamps off. Each connection was checked and double checked. Finally, I took the primary filters apart to inspect the cartridges and found that the one I had just replaced had an over sized o-ring. I opened another filter, stole the o-ring (which was the right size) and put things back together. We bled the lines again after about three tries it started.
In the afternoon we went in to the beach and wandered around the town. The place is inhabited by kids between 18 and about 25 so were a bit out of place. We stopped at couple of bars and walked the beach a little. (it really was too cold for us at about 72 but the kids were out in force). There is a small grocery where we picked up a few items... saving us the walk back to Harris Teeter's. We returned to the boat to read and make some dinner.
May 12th, 2011
It was still cloudy and cold...about 68 so we wasted the morning reading and then joined Kim and Steve for lunch at a Mexican restaurant that we like. We had a leisurely lunch and then dinghied south to the inlet to check things out. It was cold enough that we were uncomfortable with the dinghy up on plane. We returned to Sapphire for naps. Before dinner we attempted to start the engine and once again had trouble. There didn't seem to be any air in the fuel line and it did eventually start but it took a few tries. It finally dawned on me that if the fuel was ok it had to be a combination of cooler temps and bad glow plugs. With a quick test I found that even though we could hear the solenoid that sends electricity to the glow plugs "click" there didn't seem to be voltage at the glow plugs. It was too late to do anything about it now but at least we have probably figured out the problem.
May 13th, 2011
After working for 20 minutes to get the engine going by heating the block with a hair dryer, anchors were weighed at 06:00 and we made our way south to the Masonboro Inlet. It was overcast and forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Sapphire was on a close reach but with so little wind that she needed the help of our motor. It was a 70 mile daylight run to Cape Lookout, so if we had storms we could at least see them...Within an hour of our departure we had one building to our north. For a while we thought we might just skim its northern side but before noon it was evident that there would be no chance to avoid a drenching. We rolled up the jib and then dropped the main lashing it to the boom and watched the lightening increase around us. The rain was intense, Fine Lion was in and out of sight a quarter mile to our starboard, but there wasn't much wind. The lightening was intense; one bolt hit about 100 yards off Fine Lion's bow knocking out some of her electronics for a few minutes.
The storm lasted about 45 minutes and gave us a good washing but that was about the extent of the excitement for this trip. We arrived in Cape Lookout around 1830, anchored and got some Mahi out to thaw for dinner.
May 14th, 2011
I was up at 01:39, bounced out of our berth by a crash of thunder. The fact that we have to coax this engine into life worried me. If we were to get a thunder storm of 50 knots or so, and if the wind shifted 180 degrees from the direction we had anchored this afternoon, we could be in trouble. So it was anchor watch for me much of the night as three fairly potent thunder storms rolled through. The wind did not shift so we were fine but one never knows what the wind will do in squalls.
It was obvious that my main task for the day was tracking down the glow plug problem. After breakfast I went through the spare parts boxes to find our spare solenoid and removed the mattress form our berth to get to a removable panel, behind which I could at least see the solenoid. With Kathy's help, I tested signal in, power in and power out to determine that ... yes the solenoid was defective.
Steve and Kim were on their way to the beach for a walk and since I knew that replacing the solenoid was going to be a pain, we joined them. The beach here is probably the best shelling beach that we've seen. We had a great time and got a good walk in before heading back to work.
As expected, the lack of space and the limited length of the wires in question made a reasonably simple change out a time consuming, knuckle busting job. Eventually, everything was back in its proper place and it was time for a test. Kathy fired up the fuel pump, activated the glow plugs and it started immediately. At least for the time being we think that the starting problem is solved.
We had snacks on Fine Lion later in the afternoon and then returned for dinner and some video.
May 15th, 2011
We woke this morning to another thunder storm. We've had about a week of cloudy rainy weather here in NC... It reminds us of home a little. Usually, the weather away from the Great Lakes is noticeably sunnier, but lately that hasn't been the case. We spent the morning working on odd jobs and then wasted the afternoon reading and napping.
May 16th, 2011
We left Cape Lookout around 8 a.m. to time the current in the Beaufort channel which is about an hour away. We had a nice sail in rolley seas and then motored our way through Morehead City and its marshes into the Newport River and then into Adams Creek which dumps into the Neusse. We stalled across the Neusse to give Fine Lion time to tie up in Oriental before we made our way to the dock. We organized the boat and then wandered over to Steve and Kim's condo. A little later the four of us wandered over to the tiki bar at the marina and then had a nice dinner in their restaurant.
May 17th, 2011
Kathy spent the morning working with the AT&T people on the phone trying to get our data line working. After 2 hours on the phone with their tech people it was decided that our "unit"was defective and they would need to send us another one....after explaining why that wasn't going to work, it was established that if we drove to New Bern the store there could make the replacement. So...Steve loaded us in his car and off we went to the AT&T store.
The young man who asked if we needed some help was very sorry that he was free when we entered the store. It took him about an hour to figure out that all of our hardware was working correctly and that the problem was with their coding and accounting system. After updating our account numbers everything was working correctly. It took another hour for him to reinstall our data uplink to insure that it was working but in time everything was fine.
Steve took us to a N. Carolina Bar B Que for lunch which was ok but I really like Davie's sauce much better. This pork had only vinegar sprayed on while roasting and tasted nothing like what we're used to.
After a few more stops we returned to the condo and back to the boat to recover from an afternoon's worth of running around.
May 18th, 2011
Kathy put together our dirty clothes and around 10 we went back to the condo for some laundry. Steve and I worked on getting the AC in his car recharged and then left for some errands. I filled three jerry cans of diesel and we picked up a few things at the local NAPA store before stopping at the Silos for some lunch. He dropped me off with my fuel and I spent a few hours filling our water tank, stowing fuel, and a few other things that I had put off for a while.
Kathy returned with laundry and we killed a couple of hours before returning to Steve and Kim's for dinner. We grilled some steaks on their new grill, had some baked potatoes, mushrooms and asparagrass. We went for a walk after and then forced down some fresh strawberries on ice cream for dessert.
Our plans were to leave in the morning .... and we couldn't dissuade our friends from seeing us off at 6 a.m.