11/16/2010, Wrightsville Beach, NC
This morning the guys motored through Camp Lejeune. They came to a sign that said "Do Not Pass This Sign If Lights Are Flashing, Live Artillery". The lights weren't flashing, but they could hear firing in the distance. There were also warnings on the barrier islands about unexploded ordinance. Altogether not a very inviting place. Bud said the anchorage did look nice as they went by.
They had a lot of swing bridges to get past today. Most of the bridges open on a schedule, either on the hour, or every half hour. Bud was worried about the timing, especially since he really didn't want to push the engine. As it was, they managed to get through all of the bridges with a total wait time of only about 15 minutes. At one bridge, the bridgemaster opened the bridge early for three tugs taking through dredging equipment and pipes. Bud and Rick were able to follow them through, and then the tugs waved them ahead. At the last bridge of the day, the bridgemaster waited 10 minutes for them, and then held the bridge open for 5 minutes while they made the last half-mile.
Bud called me this morning about the engine. This evening he told me just after he called he had the boat on autopilot in a narrow channel. He was trying to gather up the charts and get them below and put on his rain suit as it was about to rain. He was at the front of the cockpit when the autopilot started to behave really strangely. When he stepped back to the helm, he saw his set course had taken them about 50 feet outside the channel and the depth gauge was reading about 2 and a half feet. Since our depth gauge is not offset to read either at the waterline or below the keel; that meant we had 30 inches of water from just next to the keel to the bottom. The keel is a bit more than 30" deep. The autopilot was trying to correct the course when the boat was aground. Bud was able to quickly get it out of the mud and back in the channel, but he felt lucky.
The day wasn't all negatives. They saw another group of dolphins, around 20 or so. Bud thought they were feeding and they swam right along next to the boat. He said their swimming was almost silent and they were so close you could hear when they took a breath through their blowholes.
Since Bud and Rick made such good time with the bridges, they got to the place they wanted to stay at 3:15, so they made their way to the anchorage. The anchorage was in an inlet, just west of the barrier islands, and just outside the route of the Intracoastal. The entry to the inlet was shallow, but once inside it was fine. The inlet went back along the Intracoastal for about 3 miles to a fixed bridge. Unfortunately, the anchorage was crowded and they had to go almost to the bridge before they could drop the anchor. The wind was blowing down the length of the inlet and blowing the boat towards the bridge. There are thunderstorms predicted for tonight, and the wind is supposed to pick up to 20 to 25 knots. Bud decided he'd never sleep a wink for fear of dragging anchor and clipping the mast on the bridge. So they pulled the anchor back up and went back out the inlet to another marina. Bud said had the wind been from another direction they would have had a perfect spot, only about 150 yards from a dinghy dock, so Fuzzy could be easily rowed ashore. We anticipate spending most of our time at anchor, but so far on this trip it isn't working out.
The engine ran fine all day. Bud checked after 3 hours of running easy and there was no oil leaking. He ran it hard a couple of times, but hadn't had a chance to check the leak before I talked to him. I'm feeling pretty confident that they'll make it through the week without a problem. If their luck holds they'll make it to Charleston, SC, and that's where Bud will wait for me to get back.
Meanwhile, while Bud and Rick are basking in 70 degrees and viewing dolphins, my grandson and I have the flu, back up in Michigan.
11/15/2010, Swansboro, NC
Bud called this morning to see if I could perhaps look something up for him on the computer. He has our computer; he has Internet access. He does not have patience. Anyway, while we were talking he saw a dolphin, then two, then 6, then a whole pod! They came right up to the bow of the boat. Bud had the engine in neutral and had abandoned the helm to go look at them. The boat was drifting a bit. He tried to take a picture, but is not sure if he got a good one (it's a digital camera, but he didn't know he could review the picture he took - did I mention he has no patience for electronics?). I just checked the email and a message was sent with the title photos, but nothing was attached, so I'm sorry folks, still no new photos.
By the end of the day they had made 45 miles and were in Casper's Marina in Swansboro, NC. They could have gone farther, but they would be heading into Camp Lejeune. There is a very nice dredged anchorage there, but it had two drawbacks. First, you're not allowed to go ashore, so if they took Fuzzy to pee they'd have to stay in the dinghy! Second, it's reported that during maneuvers the Marines might come out in the middle of the night and ask you to leave. Finding your way through marked channels in otherwise shallow water at night is not a fun thing to do, not to mention loss of sleep.
There was also an anchorage in the area where they stopped, but Active Captain reported it required anchoring "Bermuda style" and Bud was afraid that meant using a bow and stern anchor, and our stern anchor isn't set up. When he got to Casper's he saw two other boats anchored quite close right in the channel. Whatever "Bermuda style" is, it didn't appear to involve two anchors or anything unusual.
Bud has been trying to take it easy on the engine. At 2600 rpm it has developed a rattle. Bud thought it was one or more of the engine mounts. He checked them today and they looked OK. The propeller shaft still seems fine. There is an oil leak at the engine near the starter. Bud is afraid it's the rear seal. He's just hoping it holds together until the end of the week. Then he will hold up somewhere that hopefully has some marine service and parts and take a look at what is going on. At least it was close to 70 degrees today, and although it wasn't a bad day just north of Detroit in St. Clair Shores, it was no 70 degrees!
11/14/2010, Oriental, NC
Rick, Rick and Bud went to Gerogie's Restaurant in Belhaven, NC for their celebratory seafood dinner last night. Bud said the place looked like a throwback to 40 years ago and was packed. The choices in seafood preparation were steamed or steamed. Bud ordered shrimp, scallops and crabcakes and the guys split a half-peck of oysters. Once shucked that half-peck made about a cereal bowl full, but they were delicious. When the folks in the restaurant found out they were staying at Les's Marina, they all got free beer. At some time before the end of the meal both Georgie and his wife came out to talk to them. Altogether a satisfactory evening.
The next morning, Rick Sindoni took off in the rental car for New Bern. Rick Sampson and Bud had to wait out the fog to leave. Bud did his morning ritual of topping off the Racor filters. He said he has to use less diesel as time goes on. At about 8:30 AM the fog just disappeared and they took off.
Rick Sindoni called to say he'd turned in the rental and caught the shuttle to his hotel. He can have his room until 4 PM tomorrow, so he can relax and get cleaned up before his flight. Then he can take the shuttle back to the airport and home.
Bud and Rick 2 made over 40 nautical miles and were in a marina in Oriental, NC just after 3 PM. They went to Whitaker Pointe Marina. It's a brand new marina with beautiful docks and excellent facilities. It is a ways out of town. Bud said the grocery store was about 300 yards across the water and 3 miles by land. Fortunately, they also had a courtesy car, so Rick and Bud were able to restock the groceries. Bud called and asked where the laundry detergent was, so that's a good sign.
Rick is not an experienced sailor, so even if Bud had considered going outside as the storm off shore waned, he doesn't want to do it with inexperienced crew. A schooner there that is planning to go out at Moorehead City said they expected 40 mph winds. With two masts and smaller sails, they weren't worried, but our sails are a lot to handle in 20 knots, let along 35 or more. So I think the guys will stay in the Intracoastal. Even so, the dockmaster said they should be able to make it to Charleston in a week. We'll see what happens as the days go on.
11/13/2010, Belhaven, NC
Yesterday while Bud and Rick were crossing the Albemarle Sound, they were hearing conversations on the VHF radio that sounded like boaters in trouble with shallow water in the parts of the ICW they would be crossing today. As it turned out, they had no trouble at all. They had to watch the chart and buoys to make sure they stayed in the channel in both the Alligator and Pungo Rivers. The channel was generally 100 to 200 yards wide and about 15 feet deep. Another 50 yards outside the channel, it was 1 to 2 feet deep.
Because of the narrow channel it was another day of motoring, but they did fly the staysail in both rivers, although not in the cut between. The engine continued to run well, the staysail gave them an extra knot and they arrived at Belhaven at about 3 PM after racking up another 50 nautical miles.
They must have crossed some sort of line, because Bud called me at about 4 PM to ask me where the screen for the hatch was. They were having trouble with both flies and mosquitoes! Flies and mosquitoes when Friday morning they'd woken up to ice on the dock. Bud said it was about 70 degrees out.
Tonight is crew change night. Rick Sampson is coming in this evening. The guys are planning a good seafood dinner at a local restaurant, then tomorrow Rick Sindoni will take the rental car back to New Bern, NC, and after washing the only pair of jeans he brought, fly out Monday for Buffalo. Bud and Rick 1 did really well, pushing south almost 300 miles. And now when it's finally getting warm, Rick gets to go back to Buffalo. Fine reward, but thank you so much, Rick.
11/12/2010, Mouth of the Alligator River, NC
8 boats left the Welcome Center on the Dismal Swamp Canal. It was calm when they left. 8 boats locked through the last lock. 7 boats stopped for the day at the free dock at Elizabeth City after going 22 miles. Bud, Rick and Fuzzy on Earendil kept going south. They froze the night before, no power, no heat and they woke to frost on the boat and ice on the dock. They were definitely going south.
The wind was picking up as the water opened up into the Pasquotank River Inlet past Elizabeth City. The water was only 8 to 10 feet deep the whole way out to Albemarle Sound. The entire sound was only around 15 feet deep. The notes for the Intracoastal Waterway say some folks lay up several days waiting for calm weather to cross the shallow sound. Since Earendil is a sailboat again, there would be no waiting for our intrepid crew. The waves were about 4 feet as they entered the sound, by the time they got across the wind was up to 21 knots and the water was "pretty agitated".
At the other side of the sound they entered the Alligator River Inlet. There's a swing bridge over the inlet and a marina just before the bridge. That's where they were headed. The channel is shallow. Rick was at the helm and Bud was trying to contact the marina. They saw another sailboat ahead that was aground and being pulled out by TowBoatUS. When Bud finally got the marina on the VHF radio, he noticed the folks on TowBoatUS gesturing vigorously. He told the marina he had to switch back to channel 16 to see what they needed, he thought they might need some assistance with the other sailboat. When he got them on the radio they said, "Turn to port, turn to port!" So Rick did. It seems the channel was miss marked. Rick was a bit shaken up, but they didn't go aground.
Active Captain (a website where cruisers offer advice, updates and reviews on conditions and marinas) said that the entrance to the marina was shoaled to 5'. Bud found out that the Corps of Engineers had just dredged it that morning! Bud had the helm as they made the turn into the marina. He had to make a 90-degree turn at the swing bridge and parallel the highway to the edge of the inlet. He was trying not to go too fast, so if he went aground it would be a soft grounding, but he had 21 knots of wind on the beam. He had to go at least 4.5 knots to maintain steerage. As it was, he was angled at about 20 degrees from the direction of travel because of the wind. But they made it in without incident. The sailboat that went aground is now 2 slips down from them, so they ended up OK, also.
Bud says it is a beautiful marina, clean, well kept and inexpensive. Oddly enough, this is another marina and highway rest stop combination. Must be a North Carolina thing. But this one has power. I asked Bud if the heat was working again. He said the pump was working now and he intended to run it all night or until it started smoking. The crew wanted heat!
11/11/2010, North Carolina Welcome Center
They chose to take the Dismal Swamp Canal. Since Earendil only motors at about 8 mph, taking the route with all the boats going 25 or 30 mph and throwing off wakes reminiscent of the ride at the end of the Chesapeake was not appealing. So putting aside Bud's worries about depth, they took the slow route.
Early in the trip there is a lift bridge. It does not lift from 6:30 until 8:30 AM because of morning car traffic. Getting there before 6:30 meant starting in the dark. Bud didn't want to do that, so they arrived at 8:30. Unfortunately, that meant they arrived at the first lock at 9 AM and its next scheduled opening was 11 AM. The lockmaster told them they could tie off or anchor in the channel. They chose to anchor, and did so without too many problems. Rick did have to get a couple of kinks of chain out of the hawse pipe.
Before they got there, they went under a 65-foot fixed bridge. We measured our mast, twice, at Annapolis because Bud wanted to make sure we would make it under these bridges. We thought our mast was 63 feet from the waterline, but it actually measured less than 60, and when I looked up the brochure I have on the Norseman 447 it listed bridge clearance at 58 ½ feet. But anyone who's taken a sailboat under a bridge anywhere near the height of the mast knows it's a nerve-wracking experience. You have no depth perception looking up the mast and you're sure you will hit. Bud stood and watched the VHF antenna as Rick took the boat under. It never bent. Immediately after the bridge the Dismal Swamp cut off to the right. Bud missed one buoy and Rick had to turn a 360 right in front of the bridge. Gave the commuters a show.
When they finally made the first lock, there were 5 sailboats going through at once. The lockmaster put on a regular show for them. The lockmaster explains all the local attractions and even plays a song on a Conch horn. It took 50 minutes to clear the lock.
The 5 boats went on together. I asked Bud if he touched bottom, but apart from the initial turn into the canal there has been plenty of water. He said there was one snag but the group went around it. The problem turned out to be trees! At one place the Army Corps of Engineers must have been dredging. They had the pipes floating along the edge of the canal and where they were working they took up over half the width. Rick was at the helm and he actually touched one of the floats holding the dredging pipes as he was trying to stay out away from the trees. The branches hit the furled genoa, well below the top of the mast. No damage was done except some greenery on the deck, but Rick was pretty worried.
The 5 boats all ended up tying off for the night at the docks at the North Carolina Welcome Center. The center also serves the highway there. There were also 4 other boats at the center. The dock would accommodate 3 boats, so the boats are rafted 3-deep; Earendil is in the middle of one group. It didn't really matter because there is no power anyway.
Bud hasn't tried to run the air conditioner/heater because it hasn't been that cold. They were warm today, even though the temperature was still only 55 degrees. It was sunny and protected in the canal. The entire crew, including Fuzzy, enjoyed the change from yesterday. So it was a good day even though they only made 28 miles and if they want to get where they'd like to end up tomorrow, they are going to have to skip the free dock (with power) in Elizabeth City, as it's only another 22 miles along.
(Check out the Reedville entry, I added a photo. That may be the only one that gets posted until I get back, as Bud is having a hard time with the technology. Rick Sindoni was not much help. He suggested mailing the camera chip to me.)