Friday, July 4, 2014

Hurricane Arthur

We knew when we built this house in the Outer Banks that hurricanes were just a part of the package. In fact the day that we closed on the house Kill Devil Hills was under a Hurricane Warning for Hurricane Dennis.  As we were driving down from Richmond for the closing, we were not sure that the bridge would be open due to the high winds. The builder was very anxious to get the papers signed and toss me the keys. We have been in the sights of many storms since but dodged some bullets and, even when hit, we were not hit too hard.

When SeaClearly came to live with us, we knew we were adding another level of Hurricane Stress. The first year, 2012, we never had a hurricane come near the Outer Banks. In 2013, no hurricanes made landfall in the US. But, 2014 started off with a bang for the Fourth of July and Hurricane Arthur took aim on North Carolina. We prepared SeaClearly and the house as well as we could and then settled in for, what could be, a long night. We had just had Cable TV installed, after a year-long hiatus from TV, primarily to watch the Weather Channel through the June - November hurricane season. We tuned in just in time for the first of many live reports from Kill Devil Hills, NC.

We find it somewhat humorous that our insurance provider for SeaClearly will not allow us to venture south into Florida between June and November (unless we want to pay a ridiculous premium). Much better that we keep her docked here in Kill Devil Hills where there have been a historical parade of hurricanes and the Weather Channel team - Jim Cantore, Stephanie Abrams and Mike Seidl, at least - apparently have permanent condos.

All night long we watched the approach of Arthur and the intensification to a Category 2 hurricane. We watched as Arthur made landfall at Cape Lookout, NC (home to one of our favorite anchorages) with 100 mph winds. We watched the water start flowing out of our canal as the storm got closer. We adjusted lines in 40 -50 mph winds as SeaClearly went lower and lower. Then, in the middle of the night, Arthur arrived.

First light, water is up, wind from the west
 and SeaClearly is rockin'

It is difficult to say how high our winds actually were. Reports vary and most people exaggerate. The house shook. SeaClearly's rigging was making a mournful sound. So, I'll say 60 - 80 mph. The eye passed just about 5 miles south of us. With that passing, the wind switched and all of the water that had been pushed out into the Albemarle Sound came back. We adjusted the lines again - in much gustier wind, blowing rain and white caps rolling up the canal - as SeaClearly rose up again.

Rainy, windy backside of Arthur

We were up all night. The water went over the bulkheads and docks just before sunrise. About 7:00 am, when the water finally crept to a stop a few feet into the backyard, it was obvious we were OK. Our salvation with this storm was the fact that the storm was moving very fast. About 21 mph by the time it got here. As such, it didn't have time to move as much water. Irene, back in 2011, was very slow and took 12 hours to blow all the water out and 12 more hours to blow it back in - and flooded the entire neighborhood. We were very happy not to see that again.

SeaClearly in the backyard.

We adjusted the lines one more time and dove into bed to catch some sleep. We had no significant damage, the neighborhood fared well and SeaClearly rode out the storm just fine. We were glad that we had stripped her down. We never lost electricity or the Weather Channel. Thanks to all the folks that checked on us! It is nice to know that someone is thinking of you and we really appreciate your concern. I sure hope this is not an early indication of the nature of the 2014 hurricane season.

Water stopped! Time for bed.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Up in the Air

So - back to the bugs. Junie has always reacted very badly to bug bites.They search her out. She has been attacked by a Brown Recluse Spider - not once but twice within a year. The first time, the Emergency Room doctor asked if he could invite all of the doctors on duty to come in and view the classic Brown Recluse reaction complete with a red line tracing up her arm.

As such, it was no surprise that she was bitten by one of the 35 million bugs we encountered at our North River anchorage. At first, it was just a bump. By the morning we left for home, it was red, swollen and hot. When we got home, she tried all of the basic first-aid steps - cortizone cream, benadryl, etc. The next morning, we were at the doctor's office getting antibiotics. Junie, who can be very persuasive, convinced the doctor that it would be foolish not to have a refill available on the prescription. After all, we cruise around on this boat, you see. Sometimes we anchor in remote anchorages with vicious insects. And, given Junie's  history of attracting blood-sucking parasites, who could argue?

Now, on to the maintenance tasks. I mentioned previously that our radar quit. After some troubleshooting and diagnostics, the obvious answer seemed to be that the radar's Ships Heading Sensor had failed. If it can't determine the heading, it shuts down the antenna rotation. A call to Raymarine, one of the most customer insensitive groups I have ever dealt with, confirmed the diagnosis. Oh, and by the way, that radar is an obsolete analog version that isn't supported anymore. In fact, they won't even supply the parts to the dealers anymore. They may have a few of the Ships Heading Sensors at the Repair Center but you have to ship the unit to them for a $90 evaluation and then they will let you know if it can be fixed and how much it will cost.

OK. Fine. But, the radar dome is halfway up the mast. After a few days of procrastination, Junie announces, 'I am going up the mast. I'm going to do it. I want to do it.' So, we drug out our Bosun's Chair and harness, worked out the method for using the halyards for safety and hoisting lines and folded down the first of the mast steps. And up she went. For some one that has a fear of heights, this is pretty significant! Junie worked at the dome for quite a while until it became obvious that we would need to remove the top of the unit in order to disconnect it. A little more than she signed up for. My turn! An hour later, the unit was on the dock, we were both a little shaky (whether from hanging in the air or stressing over the possibility of dropping the love of your life) and another Sailing Milestone bites the dust. Of course, we didn't go to the top of the mast but we were still proud of us. There is not one, single picture. Neither of us had a phone or camera and you really can't just walk away to go get one. You will have to take my word for it.

The generator is tested and ready
That brings us up to today. Hurricane Arthur is headed our way. The Weather Channel is, once again, reporting from the beach at Kill Devil Hills. Hatteras Island is evacuated. The forecasts have gotten increasingly worse with every National Hurricane Center update. We are now directly in the path of a Category Two hurricane. Great.

We spent all day getting SeaClearly and the house ready for the storm. We helped a couple of neighbors with some stuff. It was incredibly hot and humid which did not help the process much. We started out with some basics - put on the old mainsail cover and tied it up tight, doubled up on dock lines, removed the Bimini and connector canvas.
Sails in bags

Then a new update came in. So we removed the dorade horns, added some long dock lines, shut down the wind generator.

Then a new update came in. We stripped all three headsails off the furlers, added fender boards, dug out some more chafing gear, got some large fender balls from a neighbor and, finally, reached the point where you say, 'Well, that's all we can do.'

And then, a new update came in. But, there is nothing left to do. We may have the eye of a hurricane pass right over us. Unfortunately, that will probably happen about 3:00 am. We won't see much. Perhaps we will hear the wind quiet down for a few minutes.

The first raindrops just started to fall. There is one more task - take down the wind-chimes under the house that let me know what the wind is doing. If the wind is from the south or west, they are quiet. Wind from the east and north, ringing. Wind from a hurricane? I like those wind-chimes. I think I'll take them down.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Staging - and then Run for Home

Always catching up.

We left Great Bridge early on Tuesday, June 24. We were the only boat needing a 7:00 am opening of the Great Bridge Bridge. We were only moving to the other side of the bridge to get diesel and a pump-out before starting the day's trip south towards home. I felt kind of bad making them stop traffic just so we could move 200 yards - but not that bad. Atlantic Yacht Basin claimed to have the cheapest diesel on the east coast and that seemed to be true on our way north so we stopped again on our way south.

Trust me - there are eagles in that tree
It was a still, peaceful ICW morning as we worked our way through the other two bridge openings on our agenda early in the trip. We motored along without company - well, no boats anyway. We did have a pair of eagles cruise by.

We met a few vessels going north but not many.Our only goal for the day was to make it to an anchorage off of Broad Creek down in the North River. This anchorage has very little (beyond isolation) to offer. But, it is near the entrance into the Albemarle Sound and about 3 hours from our home. It sets us up to make that run whenever the weather cooperates and the water rises enough in Colington to let SeaClearly's 5'-8" draft slip through the inlet. Our water watchers back home already warned us that we were way low so we knew we were going to be sitting at anchor for at least one night.

Quiet ICW travel

As we traveled along, we read some of the Active Captain reviews of the anchorage we were headed for. They all had one common theme - bugs! We had taken down our full enclosure for traveling but, given this insight from this very valuable site, we dug out the screens and put them up as a preventive measure. We had a very uneventful trip and dropped the anchor in 8 feet of water by mid-afternoon. Before the anchor hit the mud, the bugs arrived.

This is what an isolated anchorage looks like from space.
All that marsh to the west breeds insects.
Not just one kind of bug. Oh, no. Biting flies alone, we had in three different sizes - small and mean, medium and slow, and giant scary. We set the hook and scrambled to get into the relative safety of the screened-in cockpit. We got out the fly swatter to fight them off. We were, literally, stuffing rags into the gaps around the edges and where the lines come in from the mast to stifle the flow. They were relentless. But, it was hot so we sat in the cockpit and swatted bugs. I had a little flashback to the only time my grandmother ever got angry with me. When I was a kid visiting at her house in Indiana, I was usually bored so I would chase the flies with the fly swatter for entertainment. When I ran out of flies, I propped open the back door to let some more in. She didn't really like that.

The weather did not cooperate and the wind did not shift around to the west on Wednesday so we got to sit for another night. Junie does not 'sit' as well as I do so she was getting pretty antsy. But, no water, no home. The forecast looked like we should get our wind switch early Thursday morning but the window wouldn't last long.

Thursday, we were up at 5:00 am, anchor up and moving by 6:00, looking for a 9:00 am arrival at Colington.  The wind was from the west (as we needed), the skies were clear and the breeze was from the right direction to fly some sail. Cool!  The bugs were not gone. Although, on this morning, the flies were out-numbered by whatever these were.

Our trip into Colington went just as planned. Halfway home we got a call from neighbor Jeff that we almost had enough water and it appeared to be rising. We cruised in on our known-working path and never touched bottom. Hey, a trip out and back into Colington without drama!

We were glad to be home, glad to be home early in the day and glad that we did not have the same bug problem as the anchorage. We started unloading dirty laundry and stripping the bug-spattered screens off of SeaClearly immediately.

Since then, we have had some fun maintenance tasks and a minor (bug-related) medical problem that I will describe later. Oh, and there is a hurricane coming. Back home in the Outer Banks!