Mini Cruise July 2015
19 July 2015 | Whortonsville and Oriental NC
I have been remiss recently where blogging is concerned. The last entry was on Memorial Day when our son Jason and grandson Carson came with us. Regular readers will recall that Carson was not on his game and Southern Star was not on hers. Everyone had a good time but it could have been a better trip. The problem with Carson was an elevated temp and what was probably a virus. It happens that Southern Star had a similar issue. We were not able to complete our sail because the engine ran hot. Not boiling over hot just hotter than she is supposed to run. Jason, Judy and Carson went to the aquarium and Carson did get to ride the ferry. I stayed with the boat and tried to figure out what the problem was. After consulting with several experts the consensus was that a fouled prop could cause the problem. After looking at my email records I found that even if a fouled prop was not the issue, the prop and bottom were way past due for a cleaning. I take full responsibility for not looking after the boat bottom. We had been on a schedule with a diver for regular cleanings and I got complacent about following up. Evidently, the diver I was using just went out of business and didn’t let anybody know.
I found out which dive service was most commonly being used at Ensign Harbor. I gave the diver a call and, as luck would have it, he had just cleaned the boats at Ensign Harbor and would have to make a special trip for me. He promised the work would be done within a week. After three weeks of exasperating phone calls he finally sent me a bill. The good news is that the bill was reasonable especially considering the poor condition. When asked, the diver said the prop was badly fouled and that “could” cause the overheating. The next step in the process was to make a trip to the boat to find out that whether a fouled prop was indeed the problem.
Judy and I are retired but it seems we are busier than ever. It took most of a week for us to clear responsibilities and make the trip. We would never have come under normal circumstances because it was blazing hot. The plan was to come down late in the day, take the boat out early the next morning and make a dash for home. Our little portable air conditioner did a great job of cooling a hot boat and the evening started out comfortable enough, until the power went out at about 2am. The 12 volt fan was no substitute for the A/C unit. Since we were up early to avoid the overheated V berth, we decided to take the boat out for a trial run. It was no big surprise that the engine ran hot almost immediately. It was actually considerably worse than before. It ran so hot so fast that I had to shut the engine down twice to avoid a boil over while we traveled the 300 yards back to the dock. Oh well the bottom had to be cleaned anyway.
I had not looked any further than a fouled prop for the overheating problem. I knew I needed to gather enough information to at least speak intelligently to a mechanic. Had it not been for the heat and the power outage, we would have stayed longer. I can stand a lot more heat than my first mate. I was getting close to my limit and she was past hers. We packed the car and were about ready to take showers when the power came back on. At this point we were too hot and exasperated to do anything but get in the air conditioned car and head for higher ground.
Later in the week it was still hot but it had already been nearly a month since the boat had gone out of service. I needed to do the research and call someone to help. I returned for a very short stay just to get a handle on the problem. I bought antifreeze / coolant on the way down as well as a ‘radiator’ or coolant reservoir cap since sailboats don’t have radiators. I needed to find out if I was losing coolant or exactly what was going on. I found nothing out of the ordinary. If any coolant had been lost it was a tiny amount because the reservoir was full almost to overflowing. Water was pumping nicely out of the exhaust. I determined that it was probably the heat exchanger if we were lucky and something much worse if we were not. I called Roger after I had armed myself with the information. He was out working on a boat but his wife informed me that he would probably be home around mid day because of the heat. I left my cell phone number and headed for home. Roger returned my call shortly after I left. I was careful just to give him the facts and not tell him what I thought the problem was. He came to the same conclusion that I had, it was probably the heat exchanger. I reminded him that I had replaced the original heat exchanger with a bigger one shortly after we bought the boat but had to call him because I could not get the air purged from the coolant lines that went (uphill) to the water heater. He said he did remember and he would come down and take a look. I returned home confident in the knowledge that Roger would take care of the problem albeit for a price. A little more than a week later I got a call from Roger telling me that my heat exchanger was almost 90% restricted. He had removed it and “boiled” it out and replaced it on the boat. The most difficult and time consuming part was getting the air purged from the water heater line. He sent his invoice and we paid it.
This brings us to the current trip to the coast…
Thursday July 16, 2015
We left home about 9am. Lunch was at King’s in Kinston and was a bit disappointed with the food and service. We arrived at about 3pm and were speaking to Nick when Chuck and Tish arrived. I had seen Chuck several times recently but neither of us had seen Tish in a really long time. We got unpacked and deployed the air conditioner just before a little black squall strolled by and dumped a downpour on us. The heat exchanger was freshly painted and fastened to the bracket with two new clamps. Roger does excellent work, which is why I don’t complain (too much) when the bill comes. We had a light dinner and visited with Chuck and Tish in the cockpit. They weren’t sure if they were going sailing on Friday but they had an engagement on Saturday. The rainstorm and the air conditioner had done a great job of cooling the cabin so we slept well.
Friday July 17, 2015
After looking at the weather we decided to continue with our plan for a mini cruise. I called the Oriental Marina (and Inn) and secured transient slip #5 for the night. I told the dock master that we would be there fairly early, hopefully before the thunderstorm. We threw off the dock lines at about 11 am. I left the sail cover on until I could confirm the overheating problem was indeed fixed. It was a beautiful morning but noticeably July as far as heat and humidity. There was a breeze but it not much. We uncovered the main and set sail before we got to the Gum Thicket Shoal mark #6. We were on a very broad reach which is almost downwind. This is not the most comfortable point of sail but certainly better than a dead run completely down wind. We were coasting along at about 2 to 3 knots. Occasionally the wind would increase a bit and the speed would increase to nearly 4. This is not exciting sailing but we were so happy to be out on the water after such a long absence that we really didn’t care. Being in the middle of a 6 mile wide river going downwind in a sailboat is one of the very few times that going to sleep at the wheel would not be a huge deal. The gentle breeze under the shade of the bimini top was conducive to napping but I resisted the temptation to nod off most of the way. We sailed past the Garbacon Shoal marker #7 and set our sights for the Oriental channel. In sight of marker #1 we dropped the sails and motored toward our evening’s accommodations. We had been instructed to hail the marina when we reached channel marker red #6 which we did. The marina told us the dock master was “working” VHF channel 71 and I took that to mean he was expecting us. We should have hailed the dock master because we were stopped in our assigned slip #5 and nobody was there to help us land. A bystander took a bow line from Judy and after several moments of confusion the dock master strolled up and asked if we had a reservation. When we told him we did, he was very apologetic for not being there. I figured I would give them this one since he was really busy and I did not call him. Anyway, he was very helpful and worked with Judy to secure the bow. He suggested where to put a fender and where to tie the spring line. No damage to the vessel or crew is the goal and it was achieved.
The next order of business was to secure dinner. One of my favorite places to shop is the fish market across from the shrimp processing plant in downtown Oriental. I scored an 8 ounce slab of Grouper which, when grilled and combined with new potatoes, coleslaw and a black bean and tomato salsa made a most excellent dinner. At $7 per pound it should be good and it was.
The marina was crowded, not only with boats but with foot traffic. When we went in to settle our bill we found out that every hotel room in town was rented and we were lucky we had made a reservation for a slip. There were several special events going on in New Bern and it was what is known as a “camper’s” weekend when the kids arrive for camp Seagull and Seafarer a bit further up river. We got along just fine even with the crowd mainly because we didn’t have to deal with it much. We ate a great meal and enjoyed being in the cool comfort of our cabin after a long day in the sun.
Saturday July 18, 2015
No visit to Oriental would be complete without having breakfast at “The Bean”. The local coffee shop was within sight of our slip. We fought the crowds on our way in and managed to find a table. Judy had a pastry and I had a bagel. The coffee was good. Checkout time was 11am sharp according to the sign in the office. We got the boat ready for the return to Whortonsville. We took showers and Judy wanted to check out a shop that opened at 10. I went to the provision company and picked up some new hooks for our boom mounted sun shade. We converged at the boat at about 10:45 and shoved off. Slip #5 is a piece of cake to get out of. That can’t be said for some of the slips closer to the street. We backed out and made our turn without incident and headed out the channel. As soon as we cleared the channel we set the sails but were a bit disappointed to find that there was no more wind than the day before. Oh well, after all we did come to go sailing, so sail we did. Seven nautical miles is a long way if your speed is less than 2 knots. The wind came and went and we had another pleasant, if not exiting, trip back down river. We got almost to the Gum Thicket mark and the wind just quit. Although there was nothing serious in sight the clouds were building and getting thicker. There is a big difference between light wind and none at all. We dropped the sails and cranked the little diesel, which by the way had performed flawlessly so far this trip. The temperature gauge never got much above 160 degrees, although I wasn’t pushing her. We motored back to Whortonsville and landed without a problem.
We had already decided that we were going to drive back in to Oriental and get some shrimp from the fish market. The Grouper we had for dinner on Friday was frozen but the shrimp was very fresh. Judy drove back to town to get dinner and I got the boat squared away and even got a little re-bedding project done. We had another lovely dinner of grilled shrimp and rice. Our friends Art, John, Joey and Dorothy were there as well and we had a great time catching up in the cockpit. Another long hot day had taken its toll and we turned in fairly early.
Sunday July 19, 2015
It is a long drive from Whortonsville to home. We leave as early as possible, which is never that early especially if friends are at the dock and we are not quite finished talking. We left about 11am and stopped at Wilbur’s barbeque for a lunch of grilled chicken. The rest of the trip home was uneventful although we drove through a couple of nasty squalls.
It was really great to get back on the water after over six weeks. Stay tuned, there will be more adventures later this summer and fall. We are planning a trip to Arizona in September that will keep us away from most forms of water. We have blocked out some time in October for a sailing trip to the Albemarle sound. October is typically a great month for sailing.