Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alternators, Alternatives, All Good

First, a maintenance update. The alternator is not fried. Apparently, wiring connection issues are, once again, the culprit. I dug out all of the alternator and voltage regulator manuals this morning and started working through the troubleshooting steps. Measure this, jumper that, switch on, switch off. It was still looking like I had a failed alternator. But it wasn't quite making sense. After about the third time of restarting the engine, I reached across and grabbed the blue field wire on the back of the alternator while the engine was running and gave it a hard twist. Immediately, I heard and felt the engine react to the alternator load and knew I had found my problem. It was not the wire connection itself but the terminal post going into the alternator that was loose. A quick wrenching and we were back in the charging business again! Really good news since a new Balmar high-output alternator runs over $1000 - yikes. BTW, thanks to Bob for the offer of a spare.

So now, a recap of the last few days. We attended the resident meteorologist's, Hank Pomeranz, weather briefing in Southport Marina on Thursday night. We were pretty excited because it appeared that we had days of settled weather down the east coast. We did, however, get a dose of perspective from one of the other attendees. Hank was mentioning what a great window this was for sailing vessels heading south and having so many good travel days for our 6 - 7 knot speeds. One of the power-boaters in the crowd exclaimed, 'Man, that's like walking to Florida!'. We thought, how ridiculous. I can't walk at 7 knots. Clearly, that is at least like jogging to Florida.

We left Southport, NC at 10:00 am on Friday as planned. We were accompanied by 4 other sailboats leaving on the tide. Our friends Bejay and Michael on 'Carolina Moon' led the pack as we all motored out of the Cape Fear River into the ocean. Most of the folks were headed to Charleston but we were aiming, at least, for the Florida-Georgia line and St. Mary's Inlet. We really wanted to go further south than that but our insurance policy, like most boat insurance policies, does not allow travel below the Florida line before November 1. We contacted our insurance company to ask for a waiver so we could keep moving while the great weather continued. There were no tropical systems in sight, the ocean was calm and it was only a few days until November. They responded with a green light so we were free to go as far as we wanted.

The ocean was, as  Hank at Southport described it, 'Lake Atlantic'. We tried to sail a bit at first but it was just silly. By mid-afternoon the boats had spread out over a few miles. Three of the boats, including 'Carolina Moon' were way ahead of us but still in sight on the horizon. We were lagging a bit because of our failed attempts at sailing early in the day. Boat #3 in their pack suddenly seemed to slow and start circling. We heard the radio chatter wondering if they were OK and they were not responding. The two leading boats turned back to make sure they were alright. We called in to say that we were coming from behind. Finally, the boat in question responded to say that they had lost a handheld radio overboard and were trying to recover it from the water. They were OK and thanked everybody for the concern. That's what cruisers do. They look out for each other.

We motor-sailed along for a while and finally just ended up motoring through the night. We motor-sailed most of the next day over a ridiculously calm sea. We passed Charleston and kept moving south.

We had a pod of about a dozen dolphins come along and ride at our bow for 30 minutes. We both went forward and watched as they wove back and forth, inches from the bow and the bob-stay (that's a cable that attaches the bowsprit to the bow down near the waterline). They are so agile and so entertaining. They clearly turn to look up at you as they dart back and forth inches from the boat. Then, as is often the case with dolphins, they left as suddenly as they had arrived. Off to do whatever it is that dolphins do.

The next night, night 2, when I came up to take my watch at 4:00 am, the wind had picked up. Junie says 'Let's get some sails up!' We put up our conservative reefed mainsail and staysail and shut down the engine. We also made the decision at that point that we were not going into St. Mary's inlet. You can see from our track where we stopped pointing into the coast and aimed further down the coast. We were now committed to making it to Port Canaveral and another night offshore. Once daylight came, we put out the full main and the genoa and had hours of just beautiful sailing. Actually making great speed in the right direction!

Catchin'
Junie caught fish! She had assembled a Cuban Rig hand-line and trailed a line all day. She ended up catching 4 Bonita over the next two days. Junie does love to catch fish. But Mahi is really what she wants. More on that later.

Sunset at sea. A really calm sea.










At about 2:00 pm, the wind began to settle down. Then lighten some more. Then died entirely. It was fun while it lasted. But the ocean was just incredible. We spotted several turtles, mystery splashes and weird floating things. Somewhere between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach we came across huge schools of fish, chased by the predictable flocks of seagulls, that went on for miles. Since the ocean was so calm, you could really see nature in action as the bait-fish were herded and hunted by bigger things.

Check out the crescent moon.






As night came, it turned out that some of the weird floating things were even stranger than imagined. They lit up in florescent green flashes as the boat startled them in the dark. It was like green ball lightning under the sea. I can imagine, now, how some of those old sailor stories of spirits under the water originated.









Night #3. The section of the Florida coast from Daytona south to Cape Canaveral is some of the most boring we have seen. Especially at night. We were miles from shore as we headed out to avoid the shoals. There are no inlets so nobody goes there. The shipping lanes are even further out so there aren't even any big boats to keep your attention. You start to wonder if your instruments are still working. Nothing shows up on radar. Nothing on AIS. Because there is nothing out there. Glad to see the sun rise at 7:29 am.

We rounded Cape Canaveral to make the approach into the channel. It takes another couple of hours to reach the entrance. Port Canaveral has a huge cruise ship terminal that serves Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian. It also has a Navy docks (submarines, maybe?), a Coast Guard station and a lot of recreational boats. On this day, other than a few Navy security boats, we have an easy entry. By 1:00 pm, we are at the fuel dock at Ocean Club Marina. When we stopped the engine for refueling we discovered our batteries had not been charging for a few hours.

Up to this point, we were seriously considering this a pit stop. Like some kind of really slow NASCAR racer, we were going to refuel, turn back around to sea and keep heading south. But, with this new discovery, combined with the sudden onset of seriously tired from a three-night offshore run, we decided to park at the marina for two days. This would give us a chance to sort out our issues and decide what our next steps needed to be.


Cabo Rico 42 'Whatever She Wants'
Not SeaClearly but every bit as pretty
As we were tying up at the fuel dock, a couple came up to look at our boat. With more interest than the usual boat-lookers. Turns out they had good reason to look. They are the proud owners of Cabo Rico 42 hull number 2, 'Whatever She Wants'. One of our sisterships! Once again, strange coincidences abound as we travel on SeaClearly. This is the fourth time this year that we have been in the same location as another CR42. Considering that there are only 18 of them in the world that is quite a number. There is also a CR38 in the marina. This almost qualifies as a rendezvous!




We had already logged our longest offshore trip to-date, covered hundreds of miles south and are halfway down Florida. And, it was only October 26th. It was time to take a rest. So we left SeaClearly on the fuel dock and, in typical cruiser fashion, walked two miles round-trip to get lunch. Outside table? No thank you. Inside, AC, ice cold soda. We came back stuffed and moved SeaClearly around the corner into a slip.

Not a bad place to rest!




We have met more wonderful people, shared stories, been amazed at the small world we live in and the likelihood that we have probably passed a lot of these folks before somewhere in life.







Fish - fear the Junie...
With our alternator fixed, a potential improvement for the watermaker in mind (provided by a local technician), and a new batch of fishing tackle - Oh, wait!- the fish story! As we approached Port Canaveral, Junie hooked into something big with teeth that bit through the 50 lb monofilament leader on the handline and made off with her trolling rig. Probably a Wahoo, say the locals. We stopped by a tackle shop on our way back from lunch at Fishlips. Junie got herself four custom made rigs, specifically designed for Mahi, hand-constructed by the shop owner and designed for use with a handline. Can't wait to get them in the water.

So, alternator fixed, water-maker potential fix, time to move on. Tomorrow we will pull out of here around 2:00 pm and head south to Miami. Well, actually, Dinner Key and Coconut Grove. It will be another two night offshore trip with arrival planned for afternoon on Friday. Halloween in the Miami area. That should be interesting. We will pick up a mooring ball at Dinner Key and sit for about a week as a weather front moves through. After that, we start planning the leap to the Bahamas!




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Florida!

If you have been checking our track, you can see that we couldn't seem to stop ourselves once we got offshore. We are back in sunny Florida! We pulled into Port Canaveral yesterday just after noon. We were offshore for 3 nights. We had, mostly, calm seas with a few periods of really nice sailing. We saw a lot of marine life, luminescent creatures, stars in a black, moon-less sky. Caught fish!

There is so much to tell - but I have to postpone the rest of the story for a little while. We have a couple of issues to address. Most critical, it looks as though we fried our alternator. Our friend Thierry has been warning me for 2 years that these Balmar alternators do not tolerate the heat. Our last long run in flat seas and warm waters may have pushed it over the edge. When we pulled in to refuel, I noticed that the batteries (which should have been entirely topped up) were down about 100 amp hours - which means that we had not been charging for a while.

So, today I will be working on the boat in a warm, sunny place and preparing to crack open the boat bank. Such is cruising. Details later. Gotta go do work!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Snowbirds?

We have officially been engulfed by the wave of cruisers heading south. Snowbirds. Never really thought of us as snowbirds. But we look like snowbirds and act like snowbirds sooo...

We are running into more and more folks that we have met previously. Some, we met last week, some we met last year. We have seen people we recognize by boat name, blogs and just a vague familiarity. A lot of them look like us. While we were in the boatyard a short time ago, the yard owners' wife saw us walking down the street and offered us a ride (which we declined because we were almost to the store). Later, when I mentioned this to Alan, the owner, he said that his wife had told him that she offered a ride to a couple - retired looking, she had straight hair, he had a beard - and wondered if that matched anyone in the yard. Alan said, sure, everybody!

But, we are OK with being part of a crowd headed south for warm weather and clear water. Sometimes you do have to remind yourself that not everybody gets this opportunity or is interested in doing this. It just seems that way to us because everyone we meet is doing this.

Back to the adventure. We were up early Sunday morning, before daylight, and ready to head out of Cape Lookout Bight. It was still dark (as expected), still very windy (also, as expected) and we were a little slow and out of practice at leaving in the dark (predictable). We took our time and ended up, after washing the mud off of the anchor chain for 25 minutes, leaving at 7:00 am as the sky lightened.

The forecast called for 20 -25 knot winds, gusting to 30 with 4 -5 foot seas for the first half of our run from Lookout to Masonboro Inlet. As such, we were not surprised at the conditions as we cleared the entrance and turned south. A glorious morning on a beautiful, if somewhat chunky, ocean. It took us a while to dial in our sails. We put up our double-reefed mainsail and our staysail then searched for the angle where SeaClearly seemed happiest. Once we got it right, we settled into a nice rhythm making good speed in the right direction. How unusual!

The waves were, of course, bigger than forecast and the winds were rarely below 20 knots. SeaClearly does very well in this weather so we just kicked back and rode the ride. We skirted the 'Danger Zone' marked on the charts where the U.S. Marines play with their toys. The list includes 'military exercises, naval gunfire, stinger missles'. Yeah - let's avoid that. That put our furthest point offshore at about 15 miles. We tracked several other boats moving the same direction. One of them was very close to shore trying to avoid the bigger waves that we were seeing. The other two were further offshore and, apparently, aiming to go out around Cape Fear's Frying Pan Shoal - a long way since the shoal extends for almost 20 miles off the point.

Quiet anchorage sunset at Wrightsville Beach
We made our entrance to Masonboro Inlet at 5:00 pm which left us plenty of daylight to get to an anchorage just to the north of the inlet at Wrightsville Beach. We cruised up the channel towards the bridge to the main anchorage where we found - all the other snowbirds! There must have been 50 boats in the two main areas. We tooled around for a few minutes, I rejected several potential spots because I don't like being too close. We spotted a few boats we knew (Hello 'Stella'!). We finally cruised back down the channel to a quiet little location where there was only one boat. Two dolphins showed up to verify that we were choosing the correct spot. Sure, it was nowhere near any restaurants, people or stores but it was isolated, deep and wide. We dropped the anchor and a bunch of chain and declared ourselves landed. We were both pretty tired. Junie whipped up a delicious chicken breast-green beans-mashed potatoes dinner while I cleaned up the deck.


We had already decided to sit here for two nights and that worked out well. On Monday, we had to revisit the water-maker issue because it was not delivering the quality we expected. Our TDS meter was reading about 585 when it should be way below 500. So, we took it apart again - which is always easier the fourth or fifth time - found that the brine seal was on the wrong end (that's what you get for hiring cheap technicians), switched it around and restarted. After working the pressure control for a while, we got water flowing at a reading of 314 - good enough. Better than our tap water at home ever gets. We directed it into our tanks and made enough water to get showers on Monday night. Showers are so nice.

Maybe movie crew?
Throughout the day, this group of crazy power-boaters kept zipping back and forth. Several boats loaded with people, many in wet-suits, one actually being drug, at high speed, behind a jet-ski. We were guessing military operation or something. One boat had a large boom crane and we finally decided that we may be looking at some sort of movie filming crew working out in the waters just inside the inlet. We need to investigate. Maybe SeaClearly will be an extra in a movie!





Sunrise heading south towards Carolina Beach



Early on Tuesday, we were up before the sun and hauling up the anchor. This time, it came up out of sand, very little washing required. This is a good sign of things to come as we move south. We only had a short trip this morning down the ICW to Southport Marina. We need to get some laundry done. And we think there is a good weather window coming up Thursday or Friday to leap offshore all the way to Florida. We need to stop to prep for that, as well.

This short section of the ICW is pretty nice. Then, you turn through Snow's Cut, under a bridge, deal with up to 3 knots of current in your face, miss the shoaling on the other side and, finally, turn into the Cape Fear River for the ride south. We had timed it such that, once we made that turn, the ebbing tide gave us a 2 knot lift riding down the river.


We also noticed a boat pop up on our AIS. Bejay and Michael on 'Carolina Moon' were gaining on us from behind. They had taken us under their wing last year and we re-met them at several stops down the east coast. This day, they followed us into Southport Marina, intending to stop for diesel only, ending up staying the night across the dock from us. 'Free Spirit' called us on the radio to say 'hello' just as we were docking. I was a little distracted and we didn't get to talk so 'Hi! to Chad, Marsha and the kids. Hope you guys are doing well!

We went to the weather update offered here at Southport by Hank Pomeranz. He is a retired Navy meteorologist and gives a great synopsis of offshore and ICW weather. We caught one of his sessions last spring and really enjoyed it. The little room was getting full as more people moving south are hearing about his presentations. Then, we treated ourselves to dinner at The Pharmacy here in Southport. Great food, ate too much.

We will check and re-check the weather but it looks like either Thursday or Friday we run south. Probably a two night sail all the way to St. Mary's Inlet at the Georgia-Florida border. It looks like the weather may even hold long enough for us to keep going further but I don't think our insurance company will give us dispensation to go beyond the Florida line until November 1. I am sure that there are many other boats just waiting for this opportunity to move. The ocean may be crowded with flocking snowbirds.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time to Move.

SeaClearly - ready to move.
Waiting for us to return from
our shore excursion/
It is easy to get too comfortable sitting in a place like this. Cape Lookout definitely has an attraction. But, we are getting antsy. Ready to move. SeaClearly is egging us on. You can feel the subtle vibrations running through her. “Ready for sea.” “Prep for ocean .” “Get Underway.” She knows the drill better than we do. And she can feel when it is time to go.


We spent the day doing just that. Getting ready to go. The day started with a check-in with Chris Parker for the weather. We intend to move from here to Masonboro Inlet (Wrightsville Beach) tomorrow. Chris confirmed that the weather should work for us. A little windy and choppy when we leave at zero dark thirty but improving as we go. And, a good sailing day. It will be about a 12 hour day so we need to be moving by 5:00 am. Still dark. It looks like the boat next to us must have a similar plan. They were testing their Running Lights this evening right after we did. We put a double-reef in our mainsail (reduced the sail area) in expectation of the 25 – 30 knots winds when we leave in the morning. We even rigged our running backstays (if you really want to know what those are, email me) assuming a downwind sail in fairly windy conditions.

We did allot time in the schedule for a long walk on the beach. Man, does this place have beach. Cape Lookout has a protected east side that has built a wide, beautiful expanse of white sand that falls gently into clear water. We took our walk at low tide and, as such, we walked across areas that would be underwater a few hours later.




Several people fly-fishing. Tyler, this could be you!


Poor pelican! He picked up a full surf-fishing
rig complete with treble hooks.
Glad to see him fly away.
We were walking down the beach towards a large ‘thing’ on the beach, wondering what it could be, when we saw a group of people in front of us attracted to a pelican flapping in the surf. The large ‘thing’ became low priority as we got involved in a pelican rescue. The poor pelican had fallen victim to some fishing tackle and was foundering in the surf – unable to fly, beak pinned against his/her body. A Park Ranger was among the group of people. She was about 12 years old and doing her best to help this poor bird. The other folks were holding the pelican down while she tried to extract the treble hooks and lines.  My only contribution was providing the sharp knife to cut some lines and slice the hook free from its tongue (yikes!).  It was awesome to see this big bird fly off – hurt but free and living to see another day. 

By the way, the 'thing' on the beach turned out to be the largest boat fender  ever (ship fender, actually. About 5 feet in diameter and 12 feet long). No pictures because - who cares after an injured pelican.


This evening we were treated to the best sunset I have seen in a while. Just enough clouds to provide character but not so many as to obscure the setting sun.  This may be the last sunset we see at Cape Lookout for a long time and we enjoyed it immensely. We took dozens of pictures, none of which came close to capturing the moment, and then settled into the cockpit with a glass of red wine.
Cape Lookout Bight sunset.


We are looking forward to moving day. We are still missing Roux. He was always funny on moving-day-eve. He could tell by the preparations that something was happening and he always worried. His little Labrador Retriever eyebrows would get angled to the center and his eyes would move from me to Junie and then back to me, looking for clues about the impending deviation from normal. We miss him.


Unfortunately, it looks like our move will be followed by another sit-and-wait. The weather off of the east coast of South Carolina-Georgia-Florida looks like it is going to suck until Saturday. We will anchor out for a couple of days and then move to a marina in Southport to get laundered and tanked.  Can’t wait to start jumping south. We can feel the cold nipping at our heels.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cape Lookout Bight - again!

We had a nice stay in Oriental. We ended up being there for 8 days which was about what we expected. We had quite a bit of work done and SeaClearly is in good shape to take off again. We met some great people. The variety of heavy cruising boats here is impressive and makes for interesting walks around the marinas and boatyards. Everybody you meet is either going to faraway places on boats, have been to faraway places on boats or are hoping to go soon.

Billy was painting the bottom of a little skiff right next to where we were tied up at the dock and we enjoyed talking to him. After a couple of days, he invited us over for dinner and, like bringing home a couple of puppies that he found on the docks, he took us home so he and Donna could feed us. We had a great time and will definitely catch up with them in the future at another place and time.

Mast chocks - in matching teak.
On Monday, we got Mark-the-rigger from Sailcraft to go over and tune our standing rigging. All of our mast chocks (little blocks that go around the mast where it passes through the deck) had fallen out. Actually, there were only ever a few and we knew we need them replaced. The mast was re-centered, Mark fitted the chocks and then adjusted the tension in all of the shrouds and stays to give us a nice, straight stick.

Shortly after Mark finished, Mark-the-sail-guy from Inner Banks Sails and Canvas showed up with our refurbished mainsail. With his help, we re-installed it. We also added some new turning blocks to help with the reefing. And so, by 2:00 pm, we were all ready to go. We paid all of our boat bills (not insignificant) and started preparations to take off. Then we changed our minds and decided to hang out one more night and leave early on Tuesday.

Our tight spot on 'the wall' at Sailcraft



We left Sailcraft at 8:00 am on Tuesday morning with Allan and John giving us personal attention to get us gracefully away from our spot on the wall. The folks at Sailcraft were very helpful, efficient and the prices were fair. We would definitely come here again.


We were, as usual, concerned about the water level leaving Whitaker Creek. But, even though we did read zero feet under our keel on occasion, we never touched bottom and, therefore, did not lose any of our new bottom paint on our way out. A very good start. We eased our way through the channel, cleared into deeper water and cranked up the motor which gave us our some more good news. Our prop cleaning, combined with a clean, newly painted bottom, seems to have solved our speed loss issue. We were back to running in our normal range of about 5.8 – 6.0 knots of boat speed at 2500 rpm. Much better than the 3200 rpm we required to make that speed recently. Good to have that extra punch available for those inlets in the future.

ICW headed for Beaufort
We made a quick and uneventful trip down the Adams Creek section of the ICW and out Beaufort Inlet by noon-ish. We went out into the real ocean again for the first time since April and it felt good. The forecast called for winds out of the southeast at 17 knots gusting to 23 and seas running 5 feet. Last year we got a lesson in NOAA forecasting from Hank in Southport. NOAA forecasts the middle of the ‘bell curve’. If they say ‘waves 5 feet’, you can expect that 10% of the waves will be double that. They were not, on this day. But they were 5 – 6 feet with occasional eights so it was fun. When we turned east to aim towards Cape Lookout, we were on a beam reach (meaning that the seas were running directly at our starboard side) and we rolled a bit. All in all a nice reintroduction to the ocean.
 





We cruised into Lookout Bight around 2:00 pm. Once again, this place astounds us with its beauty. We have been here several times now and, every time, we are amazed at the wildlife, the setting, the peaceful beauty and the diversity of activity in this special place. The lighthouse, the sea turtles, recreational and commercial fishermen, the isolation, the quiet nights – all just come together to form a perfect picture.
Bright and clear...

austere and beautiful...



And, of course, a lighthouse.



















Me, in the 'hole',
working on the watermaker


Wednesday, it rained. Hard. A lot. All day. The winds blew 25 – 30 knots constantly. SeaClearly tugged and swung on her anchor but stayed in place. We were happy to have our full enclosure which makes our cockpit an extension of the cabin even in the rain. We were supposed to be working on and recommissioning our watermaker anyway so the rain just kept us focused on the task. We re-ran some plumbing, cleaned some parts, re-assembled some others, installed a new membrane and fired it up. After we had been running for a while, I made a mis-step of sorts (don’t ask) and blew out a fitting so we are back to troubleshooting now to see why the high-pressure pump won’t kick in. Arrgh!

Junie, capturing pictures for the 'New Adventures of
Millie Mermaid'. Look closely.


Today dawned bright, clear and, relatively, calm. We dropped the dinghy and took a ride over to the lighthouse. We walked over to the ocean. It was beautiful and we did not see any of the shark feeding frenzies that have been posted on the internet. 









Old house at Cape Lookout
Originally the Life Saving station. Now a bit far
from the ocean.
















We also met some folks on the other sailboat anchored here and we took another shore excursion to check out the historic village. Actually, it is more like a collection of historic buildings that may or may not have originally been exactly there, like that or historic. Interesting anyway.


Our goofy issue of the day turned out to be lunch. We decided to throw a couple of hotdogs on the grill. Seems simple.  But our refrigerator is stuffed with months worth of food. We had predicted that it would be a problem finding things for a while until we started using up the overflow. We practically emptied the contents trying to find the hotdogs, relish and mustard. Some things had fallen down behind all of the baskets in the fridge, so far into the back, that they couldn’t be reached otherwise. We had food all over the floor just for the sake of hotdogs on the grill.






We are not really inclined to move just yet. We aren’t in any hurry. We really like it here. We want to move down toward Cape Fear via Masonboro Inlet whenever the sailing looks good. We still have a couple of jobs to do – raise the dinghy onto the foredeck for offshore sailing, walk on the beach, watch the sunset. Tough life.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Always Something New

Thursday night we got to try something new. Late in the afternoon, in preparation for our launch on Friday morning, Allan of Sailcraft drove the Marine Lift around SeaClearly and lifted her up off of the jackstands about one foot. This gave the guys enough room to scrape the bottom of the keel and get a couple of coats of paint on before the splash. Then, they all went home for the day. We were left to 'hang' overnight. This is the first time we have ever spent the night in a boat swinging in lift straps. It was a little weird. At the same time, it almost felt more natural than the previous nights sleeping on a boat that wasn't moving at all.
Hanging in the slings for our last night 'on the hard'

Earlier in the day, I changed out the anodes (zincs) on the bowthrusters. First time I had to do that. Very easy but, having never done it before, I took it very slow. 'Just unscrew that bolt and pop them off' , they said. Now, I really like my bowthrusters and didn't want to take any chances on inflicting damage on them. Like most things mechanical, it took more force than expected to 'pop' and then was suddenly apart. We now have a full complement of new zincs all around.

Early morning launch
Rig inspection





















Last night, it was Junie's turn for something new. Right before we left, I had to have a pesky spot cut out of my shoulder. Too many younger days in the sun. As Tim was putting in the three stitches required, he mentioned that I would need to come back in a week to get them out. When Junie pointed out that we would already be gone, he turned to her and said, "Well, then you will have to do it." The nurse gave Junie some quick lessons and off we went.

Friday night arrives and it is time. Junie doesn't like medical - basically anything medical. Scared of needles, blood, discussions of either of the aforementioned and certainly not medical procedures. In short, this is out of her comfort zone. But, like many things we have done along the way to these adventures, if you can't do this, then you shouldn't be considering going. Quickly, and with no drama, Junie had my stitches out. High fives. Never have to do that for the first time again. Hopefully, never have to do it again. Period.

Just another in an on-going string of firsts. I read a quote the other day that seemed appropriate.
"When was the last time you did something for the first time?" We seem to be piling them up. Sometimes small, sometimes big, always interesting!

Junie polishing the topsides and smiling.
We are still waiting to get our mainsail back from Inner Banks and for Sailcraft's Mark-the-rigger-guy to give us a once-over. We will be here until at least Monday. No worries. By the time we were launched, we had a beautifully shiny hull but our topsides were covered in layers of boatyard dirt and crud. We gave SeaClearly a thorough wash and wax and started putting things back together. It won't be long before we are on our way!

Oh, wait! One last first. Junie got herself a new GoPro Hero4 Silver so we can shoot intense action videos. Or not. Either way, she is having fun with her new toy. I guess I will have to figure out how to upload videos to the blog now. A first yet to come.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Boatyard Days

We do love a boatyard. There is always so much going on. During the day, the action is non-stop. Boats come and go. Work happens everywhere at once - on your boat, that other boat, that boat that just arrived, that weird looking boat. Even that boat that looks like it will never float again is getting attention.

At night, it gets ridiculously quiet. Oriental is quiet to begin with and the pair of boatyards (Sailcraft shares the canal with Deaton's) is removed from 'town' by several blocks so it is really quiet.

We arrived here at Sailcraft in Oriental, NC on Monday, October 6 at almost exactly 3:00 pm. Remarkably, we had called them almost a month ago and set this up, to be hauled at 3:00 pm on Monday, October 6 even though we had no clear idea when we would be able to leave Colington. Somehow, the weather and our easy travel days resulted in us turning into the canal right on schedule and pulling directly into the lift well. Not bad.

Just fits!
Now, this is no trivial arrival. The channel coming into Whitaker Creek is notoriously shoaled. Our first grounding took place right here in March of 2012. But this time, we made it through the creek with about 5 inches to spare. Then, the canal into Sailcraft is narrow, crowded and busy. Narrow like as in 4 boats wide and there are always at least one row of boats on each side. The lift well at Sailcraft is perpendicular to the canal which means there is only 50 feet of clearance to make the turn. SeaClearly, from bowsprit to the back of the dinghy hanging on the davits, is 51 feet. Still OK. As we approach, they inform us that we need to back into the well. Great.

Then, something interesting happened to me. Throughout our travels last year on our trip south, we had Roux, our big old Chocolate Lab with us. Whenever we were docking, he would start barking. I found that I could not allow myself to be distracted by him and learned to focus on the job at hand and ignore the noise. Of course, we lost Roux in February. But, as we weaseled our way into the lift well, I could clearly here Roux barking and demanding that I focus on the job at hand. We spun SeaClearly on a dime (Yay! Bow thrusters!) and settled into the well and handed the dockhands the lines. They were duly impressed and I was grateful to Roux for the assist. I was so glad to hear him again.

Since that arrival, we have been banging out work. The list goes like this.
Barnacles. Boo! We think these may
have been slowing us down. Oh, and
the shaft anode was gone again.

  • Immediately, Mark from Inner Banks Sails was there to take off our mainsail to take it to the sail-loft. One of the batten pockets was chafed through, one of the battens needed repair, several areas need restitching. Cha-Ching$.
  • Hauled, power washed, blocked. Scrapped, prep'ed for bottom paint. Cha-Ching$.
  • Hull compounded, bottom paint, prop treatment, repack stuffing box, anodes. Cha-Ching$.
  • Tomorrow we finish up the paint, splash on Friday, have a couple of rigging items looked at and get our mainsail back. By Monday or Tuesday, we will be on our way.

Shine by Collinite wax and elbow grease
Bottom paint.
The tape came off shortly after this pic.
A little bit of touch up under the
jackstands and we are done!
What a whirlwind of activity. We left most of this work to Sailcraft but we did wax the hull, scrape the prop, replace the anodes and, generally, impeded the work by asking questions whenever possible. Everyone in the yard has been great. SeaClearly is looking marvelous and ready for another journey.








We always say that the best part of our travels is the people we meet and meet again. This stop has been no exception. On our trip down the Neuse River towards Whitaker Creek, a familiar boat name popped up on the AIS - 'Cloverleaf'. We contacted them and verified that is was, indeed, Bev and Dave whom we had met during our trip up the Chesapeake this summer. These are two of the most interesting people we have ever met (see our earlier post 'It's the People...') so we were fortunate to arrange to meet them for lunch before they left the area on their way south. We met several other great folks that I am sure we have met before and others that I am sure we will run into along the water somewhere again.

We are conveniently located within easy walking distance of town, the grocery store and 'Silos' restaurant. Every time we try to walk somewhere, somebody stops to offer us a ride. Oh, and for Jack, who accuses me of only writing happy thoughts, it was a little too warm today:)



Sunday, October 5, 2014

On our way!

The SeaClearly 2014 - 2015 cruising season is officially underway! On October 4 at 9:00 am, we, the unlikeliest of sailing cruisers, left from Colington Harbour (definitely one of the unlikeliest
homeports for blue-water sailboats) on our quest to sail to the Virgin Islands. We find it a little difficult to believe. I don't think anyone would have voted Junie or me 'Most Likely to Sail Off to the Islands'.

What is really astounding is our friends. We were given specific orders not to try and sneak out of town under the cover of darkness because there needed to be an escort and a send-off. We assumed everyone was just saying nice things. Surely, they had better things to do than watch us sail away.

As the days went by, we watched the weather and tried to anticipate a departure window. Our friends checked on us daily for a status. They offered to help load the boat, watch the house and check the mail. Jack, our creative stained-glass artist friend, presented us with a beautiful piece based on the Legend of the Seahorse to bring us good fortune on our journey. (Picture later.)

We settled on Friday to leave but the weather did not bring us the water level we needed for a clean escape. We were contacted several times to make sure we were seriously delaying our departure and not just creating a diversion.

The Saturday forecast did not look pretty. But we have learned to read our own weather a little bit and we saw a clear potential for high water, reasonable winds and not enough rain to scare us off. Saturday delivered just what we needed. We did all of the final prep, shut down the house, started un-tying the docklines (you really don't have to cut the docklines) - and started getting calls and texts. Were we going? Was this it?

Now, Junie and I are not really used to such attention. We were getting nervous.What if we wiped out a piling, ran aground, had engine trouble. The pressure to pull off a classy exit was getting tough!




Backing out...
Our official photographer (Jeff) showed up to help with the lines and take pictures. We backed out (pretty gracefully, I must say) and were met with neighbors and friends waving from their porches. And more photographers. (Thanks to Lisa for the aerial shots!)
Junie waving good-bye




















And, then - the escort boat showed up, filled with more friends, to deliver us through the harbor to send us on our way. We were overwhelmed. We are still overwhelmed. We both said that we have never felt more special. We are truly fortunate to have found such a wonderful group of people.
Nice!
Captain Jack and our entourage






















Our goal for Day One was to just make it across the Albemarle Sound, down the Alligator River and into a decent anchorage before the predicted 25 - 30 knot northwest winds arrived. A modest goal and a short trip to get back into the swing of things. The Albemarle was, as it can sometimes be, snotty and in your face. SeaClearly doesn't really mind that much. We turned into the Alligator River, got a fast opening from the Swing Bridge operator (who can also be snotty and in your face. Today, he was pleasant and accommodating. Go figure.) and were then able to shut down the motor and sail south down the entire length of the river and into the anchorage.

What an incredible day, a wonderful send-off and a great finish to Day One. We can only hope that this is an indication of our travels for the months to come. Thanks and love to all.

Tonight, we are anchored in Slade Creek near Belhaven. You can always check the 'Where Are We Now?' link on the right side of the blog (Yes, I fixed it.) to see our location and track. No making fun of our speed. The weather is beautiful, a little chilly and fall is in the air. Time to head south!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Waiting...

Those of you in our neighborhood can still see our mast over the rooftops. So you know we haven't left yet. We thought the approaching weather front would bring us enough water to scoot out this morning and get into an anchorage in the Alligator River before the wind kicked up. The front was a little slow. We will wait another day or two.

We may have to move onto the boat anyway because the house is already cleaned and the refrigerator is empty. And, I guess we will have to stay a day or two longer in the islands to make up for the delay!