The Boatyard July 2011
31 July 2011 | Minnesott Beach, NC
A yacht broker once told me that when you buy the boat, you have paid the “entry fee” only, for the boating experience. The real expense comes with other things like repairs and maintenance. I have probably mentioned that before but for this entry it seems worth mentioning again. Southern Star is overdue for bottom paint. She should have gone to the yard last year In fact the last time she was in the yard; our Grandson Carson was about two weeks old. He is now four years plus. Conventional wisdom says that bottoms should be examined and painted about every 3 years. This will make her third bottom job since we have owned her. The first I did myself at the yard on Lake Lanier. That exercise squashed my enthusiasm about painting a boat’s bottom. It is hard work but not impossible. Sanding and preparing the surface for painting is the hardest part. Boat yard personnel are equipped to do it. They have the tools and use proper safety gear. The dust from bottom paint is hazardous to people and the environment, and should be handled only by professionals. Doing the work yourself will indeed save some money but yard services like hauling the boat out, power washing the bottom and placing her on stands are the same no matter who does the work. The paint itself is extremely expensive as well and the yard charges for only the paint used. A do-it-yourselfer must buy paint in gallon or quart increments. In short, the only savings comes from not paying the yard’s labor charges, which amount to less than half of the total bill.
The second time we had the bottom painted I used a yard near New Bern. I had no complaints about the yard but we had good recommendations on the Wayfarer’s Cove boatyard at Minnesott Beach near the bend the Neuse River, south of New Bern. The yard is much closer and after talking to the staff the price seemed acceptable and they are easy to work with. There are at least two yards much closer to our dock but I have heard of too many bad experiences with them. The decision was made to give Wayfarer’s Cove a try.
Friday July 29, 2011
The plan was to drive down on Friday night and transport the boat to the yard on Saturday morning and return home without spending the night on the boat. When we left home on Friday afternoon, the thermometer read 103 degrees. This is hot weather by anyone’s standards. Judy made the command decision that she was not going to spend the night in a super heated boat so she made reservations at a little national chain hotel in Kinston. The thinking was that we could finish the trip to the boat in about an hour and there would be little prep time if we didn’t have to load and unload boat stuff. The plan worked well. We arrived at the hotel about 9:30 and found it not fancy but clean.
Saturday July 30, 2011
We got up early. The hotel served breakfast, which was pretty good because they had the “make them yourself” waffles. We checked out and continued the trip, arriving at the boat a little after 9am. I was getting the boat ready when Tom, the Wayfarer’s Cove dock master called my cell. He had promised to call regarding the weather, specifically the wind and it’s affect on water levels in their river channel. We had had several discussions in the days before on the subject. Wind tide is nothing new (to me) on the Pamlico sound. When the wind blows out of the Southwest, it stacks water up against the inside of outer banks and sucks it out of the creeks and channels on the western side of the sound. The entrance to Wayfarer’s cove is a bit treacherous. When the water is low it is easy to go aground. The danger is increased by the fact that the channel is right on the river and its bottom is hard packed sand. This has a much different effect on a keel than the “chocolate pudding” mud found in the creeks to the North. Tom said he thought I would have no trouble because the Southwest wind had died down compared to the last few days and was actually forecast to switch around to the Northeast by mid day. This would have the effect of raising water levels. He also gave some last minute instructions about which side of the channel to favor. This local knowledge is extremely valuable since I have no experience with that particular channel.
I took the boat and Judy would pick me up in the car. She was not very excited about spending 4 hours slogging up the river in 100 plus degree temperatures anyway. She did help me get underway and I left at 10am as we had planned. Out on the river the wind was very light and from the Southwest as forecast. I felt confident that water levels would be sufficient when I got to the boat yard. Judy had made sure I had plenty of liquid for the trip. There were several bottles of drinking water that we had frozen. I took them from the cooler and drank the water as fast as it melted in the bottle. To say it was hot would be an understatement. I love summertime and hot weather and it was almost too hot for even my thin southern blood. Fortunately the weather was great except for the heat. The wind indeed shifted as forecast to the Northeast. This was both good and bad. Good because it would cause the water to rise in the channel where I was headed. Bad because I was headed Southwest at just fewer than 6 knots and the wind was blowing from the Northeast at about the same speed. This meant that the wind and the boat were headed in the same direction. The speed of the boat cancelled the breeze so there was not a hint of a breeze for most of the trip. The diesel exhaust lingered in the cockpit. At this point I was glad Judy was in New Bern shopping. She would not have been a happy camper.
Judy had copped an extra bagel at the hotel before she decided to have a waffle. I found it in the cooler and it made a nice lunch. There is no possibility of taking your hand off the wheel even for a matter of seconds when the boat is under power. She will turn one way or the other the second you do. The bagel was easy to eat which made it even better.
The trip was completely uneventful but boring until I got very near the Wayfarer’s Cove channel. I approached and was hailed by another boat. It turns out that she was the boat I could see, sitting off to the side of the channel that Tom told me to avoid. Her captain wanted to warn me that they were stuck. The towboat had been called but she was concerned that I would not have room to get by. I asked her to station someone on the bow with a boat hook just in case, but it looked like I had at least a boat length on the favored side if the channel. I throttled back and proceeded with caution. The crew spoke as I passed and I wished them luck. I did bump the bottom at one point but Tom warned me about some ridges. After the treacherous river entrance the channel got much deeper but it also got much more narrow. It was so narrow and crooked that it looked like I was sailing directly into the woods. There is no way two boats of any size could pass safely in that channel. To make matters worse, there is a 90-degree turn to port about two boat lengths in. It was very tight to say the least, but once I made the turn, the channel got steadily deeper. I was to leave the boat in the lift basin so it would be hauled out first thing Monday morning. The lift basin is in the rear of the marina so I got a nice tour of all the boats as I passed. The walls of the basin were at least 7 feet above deck level so tying up and unloading was a chore. I made better time than expected so the mate was not there to help until later. There was no breeze at all in the basin and the heat was extreme. I finally got everything done and Judy showed up and helped with the final tie up. I stopped by the bathhouse on the way out to pour water on my head and put on a dry shirt. We were done and leaving the marina by 2 pm. We called Matthew and Amber and we were invited to spend the night with them on the way home.
I hope I made a good choice of boat yards. Only time will tell and future installments of this blog will contain the results.
Note: The picture above is a record shot and has nothing to do with the trip to the boat yard because we forgot to bring the camera on this trip (again)