Two Marinas June 2014
12 June 2014 | Whortonsville, Havelock, New Bern
The crew of S/V Southern Star has been cruising around the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound for quite some time. We have learned a lot about sailing, boat handling and maintenance but we have also learned about planning. Very simply stated, planning for more than 48 hours in advance is impossible. If the weather doesn't get you something else will. We had “planned” to go to Ocracoke with at least two other boats from Ensign Harbor. The Ocrafolk festival was on the weekend and the only way to beat the crowds is to arrive early. Most of the accommodations are either booked for years in advance, or are first come first served. We had plan to travel on Tuesday June 3 and sail to Ocracoke on Wednesday. Unfortunately, there was a death in my extended and we needed to attend a funeral on Tuesday. The weather forecast was generally good so we simply delayed leaving until Wednesday. I had loaded the dinghy and motor on our small trailer.
Wednesday June 4, 2014
We left home later than usual because both of us ran out of steam after the funeral on Tuesday. It was a very sad event. We had already learned from friends that the park service docks at Ocracoke where we usually stay were closed for repairs. This would mean finding a place to tie up would probably not be an option. Staying at anchor is OK for us for one or maybe even two nights but this was almost certain to be a very crowded anchorage. The mate did not relish the thought of four nights on the hook under adverse conditions. To add insult to injury, the weather for Thursday was the pits. Northeast winds at least 20 knots is not a pleasant thought when you need to head east. Since we were certain we were not going anywhere on Thursday we decided to relax the rest of the day and make our preparations on Thursday. Dinner was grilled salmon and fresh asparagus in the cockpit with our friend Art.
I had made a trip to the boat since the last blog entry to retrieve the ship’s alternator. After fighting the fuel pump battle it dawned on me that alternator was probably not working. Sometimes it takes a while for me to put things together. Last year we took a power surge or lightening strike that ruined our battery charger. I finally realized that that same strike took out the ship’s alternator. During the fuel pump battle I noticed that the volt meter on the cockpit panel was only reading lower than it should. This is not a good thing but does do any harm as long as you are not relying on the alternator to charge batteries. The other symptom I finally noticed is that the tachometer was not working. The quick trip was to remove the alternator and bring it home so I could have a local technician fix it for us.
Thursday June 5, 2014
The boat was ready to go except the alternator and that was the first order of business. I do not really enjoy doing mechanical work but the more you can do yourself the less expense you incur. When I took the alternator out, I made drawings and took pictures so re-installing would not involve any guesswork. I re-installed the wiring first according to my drawing then I started the mechanical installation. The very first thing I did was to drop a nut down into the bilge. It was an important nut and after it bounced I had no idea where it went. Off the NAPA store in Bayboro I went. One dollar fifteen cents and an hour later I was back to work. This time I stuffed a towel between down in the bilge to stop any other stray hardware from wandering that way. A professional would have taken 15 minutes to do the job so my two hours was about right. After the reinstall, the engine gave a little trouble starting. I am not sure why but it acted as if it was flooded. Not sure you can flood a diesel but there was some dark grey smoke when it finally fired and there was a raw fuel smell. In any case it started and the volt meter read about 14 volts and the tachometer was operating again. All’s well that ends well.
Judy had gone to town for provisions and before she returned she noticed some really nasty looking storm clouds. A check of the Internet radar showed a really bad storm heading our way. We did not have time to start dinner before the storm hit, and hit it did. There was high winds and very heavy rain. And the power went out. The good news is there was no hail and no close lightening strikes. We were lucky except that I failed to seal the boat properly and our bed was soaked. After we grilled chicken for dinner, we dealt with the wet bedclothes and turned in. The storm must have been the leading edge of a front because it had cooled the atmosphere very nicely. We turned in and slept without the air conditioner.
Friday June 6, 2014
The wind was stronger than predicted from the east northeast. That would mean a slog into the wind to Ocracoke. The idea of slogging 8 hours for an almost certainly crowded anchorage did not appeal to us. Enter plan “B”. If we went upriver we would be headed in a southerly direction giving is a run instead of a slog. We called Matthew’s Point marina and arranged a transient slip. We left Ensign Harbor at about 11 am. After we got to the Gum Thicket Shoal marker we turned south and set the main sail. The little ship was zipping along at nearly her hull speed so I saw no reason to add canvas. The entire trip was on a single tack (or run). We dropped the sail after we sighted the first marker for Clubfoot Creek. We have anchored on the creek but we had never stayed at Matthew’s Point Marina. The sailing part of the trip was a sleigh ride and entering the channel was uneventful. As long as you don’t venture out of the channel the water depths are really good. The dock master helped us tie up and sold us some ice. Matthew’s Point is a beautiful marina, we recommend it highly. The grounds are just beautiful and the facility is very nice. Both are very well maintained and the staff is friendly and helpful. Dinner was turkey sausage and pasta with alfredo sauce. It was delicious.
Saturday June 7, 2014
The next leg of our plan “B” was to New Bern. Bridge Point was devastated by hurricane Isabelle but they have completely refurbished the docks as well as the clubhouse facilities. I saw a representative at the Oriental Boat Show back in April. He was hawking the marina and trying to get folks to visit. They have an introductory rate currently which is not cheap but less than you would expect to pay at such a nice place. We called Bridge Pointe Marina to make arrangements and the dock master asked why we would leave Matthew’s Point. It was a valid question. We had discussed staying another night. Turns out the dock masters at both marinas are brothers in law. The trip to New Bern was enjoyable at first then the wind simply died. Due to the gradual turn we were making our bow was being pointed closer and closer to the wind. I cranked the diesel and decided to leave the sails up in case the wind came up again. It did but not much. The combination of the sails and the engine gave us speeds of almost 6 knots when the wind piped up. The best part about traveling to New Bern is sailing under the huge bridge. It is a true engineering marvel and quite a handsome structure. It is much more fun to cross under than over.
After we got through the Trent River drawbridge to dock master helped us tie up. We were not disappointed in the marina. It was very nice both docks and clubhouse. They even had free ice which is a real plus. There is even a nice air conditioned lounge with a flat screen TV. The floating docks were nice except we really could have used some sort of step to get aboard.
We had called Richard and Frances earlier and found they were available for dinner. They offered to pick us up which is a good thing because I was too tired to walk across the drawbridge into town. Dinner was a Captain Ratty’s in downtown New Bern. The food is consistently good there. It is a little loud for old people to hear the dinner conversation but you can’t have everything. Richard and Frances visited back at the boat for a while. The actually invited us to their home but I was too tired to even do that. It had been a really long and we turned in shortly after our friends left.
Sunday June 8, 2014
Sunday was a real adventure. The weather was beautiful, the best one of the trip. I wanted a “down” day and had not planned anything. Judy wanted to shop for a while in town. We had an errand to run before we could get started. We had a few essential provisions that were required for the rest of the trip. We had been to the “Galley Store” marina before but our interest was in the actual store where they have limited supplies. Since Judy wanted to go to town later we decided to take the dinghy to the store. We had our bikes stolen once in New Bern so we are wary about leaving anything unattended. We asked the dock master if there was a place we could land and leave the dinghy and he said he did not know of any place in town where it would be safe. At the store we drug it up on the sand and went into the store separately leaving one of us as a look out. That is kind of a shame since the town is at the confluence of two rivers and it seems a visitation by dinghy would be common. Maybe we are overreacting.
We secured the supplies and loaded them back into the dinghy. We got part way around Union Park (about 1/3 way back) and the engine struck an unknown submerged object. The prop pin was sheered. There was nothing to do but row back. Needless to say, I got my aerobic workout for the day. Of course I had a supply of sheer pins on the mother ship so getting the dinghy back in service was a 10 minute job.
Judy left for downtown on foot not wanting to arrive soaking wet (smart girl) and I set up my amateur radio equipment. I tried to contact some of the special museum ships on the air all weekend but the bands were in bad shape and my rig does not work all that well. I failed to make a single contact. Judy called a few hours later and asked me to pick her up so she wouldn’t have to walk across the bridge. We learned there is very limited access to the waterfront in New Bern at least on the Trent River side. She walked over to Union Park and I picked her up carefully avoiding shallow water and obstacles. We had leftovers for dinner and enjoyed a Netflix episode on deck. It was a lovely evening.
Monday June 9, 2014
Monday was another adventure. As is our habit, the first thing we did was check the weather. It was not bad but it could have been better. We know if there are thunderstorms in the area they will most likely (but not always) occur later in the day. We were up early and had the boat ready transit the drawbridge at 8:30. The Alfred C. Cunningham Bridge across the Trent River in New Bern does not open for pleasure boats between 6:30 and 8:30 am, period. We were in place at 8:28 where we sat until exactly 8:30 when I called the bridge tender and asked for an opening. No problem, the bridge opened and by 8:34 we were headed down the Neuse. Our plan was to return to Matthew’s Point for another night. We didn’t want to cut the trip short and we were not crazy about an 8 hour sail. Also, our fuel level was lower than I like. The marina at New Bern did not sell fuel and I was 90% sure we had plenty to get home but I also know that diesel engines do not like to run out of fuel. It is not a matter of pouring fuel in the tank and pressing the start button. A fuel system bleeding ritual has to be observed.
This part of the trip was not great. There was plenty of wind but the river seemed angry somehow. It was not a pleasant wind. We motored for a long while until we were able to turn more east to avoid a head on wind direction. We raised the sails but we were close hauled and the wind was unsteady. We sailed for a while and then I cranked the engine. We learned long ago that you seldom get to sail when you have a destination in mind. We did more sailing on this trip than most. With an engine assist we had a fairly pleasant time of it. We had called the dock master earlier in the day and got no answer. I am certain he was not expecting transients at noon on Monday. Luckily, when we arrived we were able to hail a fellow on a boat who told us that the dock master was mowing and probably had not heard the cell phone. He told us to go to the fuel docks where he helped us land then went to find the dock master. With the wind blowing south, the water was very low in the marina. I was concerned about being able to get into the fuel dock and being able to get out. This wind tide low water issue is common for all marinas on the Neuse River not just Matthew’s Point. The refueling was uneventful but hardly worth the dock master’s trouble. The C-30 only sips fuel. Our purchase of 10 gallons will probably suffice for the rest of the summer and then some. Again the dock master was very courteous and helpful. Tying up was a challenge because of the south wind on our broadside. We used spring lines and multiple bow and stern lines. According to the Internet weather site, the wind was gusting to 20 knots at Cherry Point, NC. It rained heavily several times during the night but the wind died down and there was much less rock and roll. We slept well despite the weather.
Tuesday June 10, 2014
Earlier in this entry I wrote that thunderstorms usually build in the afternoon this time of year. Please note that I qualified that statement with “but not always” in parentheses. We woke on Tuesday to the sound of thunder and rain pounding on the coach roof. There was no reason to rise early as planned because we were not going anywhere in a thunderstorm. The marina’s WIFI connection was not working and the VHF weather radio was not much help. It said that there was a 20% chance of thunderstorms mainly before noon. What do you know? They got one right. I went up to the clubhouse to try to find a TV and a local forecast. I found the TV and the forecast but it was brief and did not include radar of the area. I had hoped to find out about the location of any storms in the area in order to avoid them.
With the lack of detailed information I simply looked at the sky. Now there’s a novel idea! The clouds appeared to be clearing to the west. Since our weather usually moves from west to east we decided to crank up and take our chances. With raingear located and soggy dock lines untied we left Matthew’s Point at 9am sharp. The trip back to Ensign Harbor was uneventful although not all that pleasant. There was little wind but the seas were unusually choppy and confused. We did not raise the sails at all because they were nice and dry and we had no idea what we were motoring into. As we traveled down river the skies brightened and it became more pleasant, except for the chop.
Don from Ragtop helped us tie up. He told us Ken and Jan from Serendipity were coming later. Summer had arrived in Whortonsville. It was quite cool when we started the day but when the clouds cleared the temperature rose very quickly. We were planning to leave early on Wednesday so I had a lot to do. Don helped me pull the dinghy out of the water so I could rinse the salt water off. We launched it again and I rowed it across to the inner dock. Judy helped me load on a dock cart and I spent some time loading the dinghy, motor and fuel cans into the trailer. It was hot and there was not a breath of wind on the parking lot. As soon as I finished that task, I retied the boat using the dock lines we had taken on the trip. By mid afternoon I had almost overdone it. We needed to go out and find a fan to replace the one that died at Matthew’s Point. We also needed a few supplies. We found a fan at the Dollar Store in Grantsboro and supplies at the Food Lion grocery store. The air conditioned McDonalds was a great place to rest and eat but the food is well, fast.
When the sun went down the heat eased a bit but the humidity was still high. We had a nice time in the cockpit with our friends. The new fan seems to work just fine. It is all plastic and seems to move a lot of air without making too much noise. We discussed using the portable air conditioner but since it is a lot of work to install we decided to take our chances since we had not needed it all week. The new fan worked just fine.
Wednesday June 11, 2014
We were up early. Since I had done almost all of the prep work there was little to do but pack, shower and leave. We left at about 9:30 with plans to scout some campgrounds on the way home.
This was a nice trip. We have not spent this many consecutive days in a long time. I don’t know when or if we will do it again later this year. We have guests planning to come on several occasions and will come every chance we get. Maybe things will work out better next year. Nick and Jeanette had a great time at OcraFolk. There were able to find accommodations and did not have to anchor out at all.