PROLOGUE – August 19, 2017
I know it’s been way too long and I’ve said this before, but gee whiz….there’s so much to do and actually by the time I finish with the day’s activities – working on the boat, cooking, some cleaning, some working, and planning, let alone cruising which includes navigating, engine room checks, stowing the lines, preparing lunch and generally making sure we’re headed where we’re supposed to by checking the electronic nav systems to the paper charts, I’m bushed….not so much in the mood to write. Well….I finally got it together and finished this installment. It may be a little rough around the edges as it covers such a long period of time but it is what it is….hope you enjoy!
North Myrtle Beach, SC to Wrightsville Beach, NC – July 22, 2017
As usual we left the dock at 0630 and continued heading north up the ICW. Again we ran into some super shallow water but luckily we kept ourselves from grounding.
As we approached the Cape Fear River, I realized that I had forgotten to check the tides and winds which is the first time I did so on this journey thus far. Big mistake.
What we found was that the wind was behind us and tide was ebbing rapidly down the river as we headed directly into it. This caused some rough conditions that could have been avoided had I remembered to check the tide tables. Hopefully I won’t make that mistake again. Meanwhile, the water was moving so rapidly that at 2000 rpm (which we hardly ever push to) we were barely making 4 knots. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, this stretch of the lower Cape Fear is filled with ferry boats heading in at least three different directions and they really don’t care much about recreational vessels. I am responsible for staying out their way, not the opposite. So it was a little tense for about an hour but we got through it and further up the river the rage subsided and all was smooth once again.
I remembered most of the routing from memory as I had been up and down this river more than a few times during our boating days in Wilmington. We easily found the markers to Snow’s Cut and made our way into the ICW from Carolina Beach to Wrightsville Beach. We had decided previously that we would anchor in Bank’s Channel because (a) we couldn’t get a slip where we wanted it and (b) it’s a great place to drop the hook. We also were comfortable there because we know these waters very well.
The next day we moved to the Bridge Tender Marina and were thrilled that many of our friends showed up to visit. It was great to see Pam Klein, Jess Weiss, Steve and Martha Stein, Pam “Go-Girl” Ardell and Bruce Christian, Andy Mitwol and his girlfriend Tasha, Joel and Kate Tomaselli, and of course Pam and Barry Weiss! Hopefully on our return we will get to see those who were out of town or just couldn’t make it on such short notice. That’s boating and we get it.
Wrightsville Beach to Morehead City – July 25, 2017
We left early as usual from the Bridge Tender except this morning we had a problem. We always discuss what lines we are leaving looped around a dock cleat back to the boat while we are untying the rest of them. Customarily we leave a mid-ship line on because it acts as a fulcrum – a center line so that we can’t go too far one way or the other. I had looked at this and thought it was a mistake and that we would be better off with a stern line as the current was behind us. Unfortunately I was correct. What happened was that I let go of all the lines except the mid-ship when the current took the stern of the boat and swung it around into the channel. The boat pivoted 90 degrees and stopped with the bow hard against the floating dock and the stern 180 degrees out into the channel. Meryl was aboard and I was on the dock. I hadn’t yet pulled our 4 step dock platform onto the boat so I grabbed it, moved it directly under the bow, and hauled myself up and over the bow rail while holding onto the rope I had tied to the steps so that I could then retrieve them. I pulled the step platform over the bow rail and then realized that we had not looped the mid-ship line back to the boat (as we had been taught to do by Captains Chris and Alyse Caldwell) but instead had it firmly tied to the cleat. There was no way to free the line, short of cutting it loose and no safe way to lower the steps and try to then loop the line, get back on the boat, retrieve the stairs and get underway. Fortunately for us, we saw a few people walking by the marina office looking at boats. I hollered over to them for help, they walked down the dock and untied the line.
Since then, our new routine is to keep more than one line looped back to the boat to assure that this doesn’t happen again. It was actually very scary, but we didn’t panic, figured it out and everything worked out without hitting another vessel, causing any property damage or bodily injury! Whew…
We headed for the inlet in flat calm water; out to the ocean, turned left and headed for Morehead City.
Masonboro Inlet as the sun rises over the South End of Wrightsville Beach, NC
Masonboro Inlet into the flat calm Atlantic
We had a lovely cruise in the open ocean to Morehead City, NC. We had reservations at the Morehead City Yacht Basin where our good friends Shay and Elizabeth Glass spend their summers aboard M/V Escape. We arrived at the marina without incident, tied up at the dock and took a breath. Before you knew it, Shay and Elizabeth had called and came by to visit. We had planned a short stop; hoped Shay would show me how to do some wiring of my receptacles to the inverter and I planned on fixing the auto pilot which was still out. (Bob Breum had helped me diagnose the auto-pilot and we thought we had it figured out that the processor was bad. He helped me locate a reputable Ebay dealer from whom I bought a used one and had it shipped to the marina).
Shay tried to explain how the “neutrals” work; that they should be separated and identified individually. He had told me before that I needed to chase each one down and label it but I never fully comprehended what was involved. On the boat, he began to investigate and before you know it he was down on his knees and back digging into my DC panel with his multimeter asking me to turn things on and off until he chased down everything on the boat. Once he identified everything, he deftly bundled the wires together and bolted them through a brass rod and taped them. You might ask why we didn’t install a new neutral bus; the reason is that there simply is no room left in the panel to do so. The fix will meet ABYC code and works flawlessly. We have DC power running all of AC appliances through the inverter! Thanks Shay!!
I then began the auto pilot project. I videotaped the project and you will find links below so I won’t bother providing a narrative here. The video clips tell the story. Don’t be deterred by how many clips there are as they are all very short – a minute or so (some are as short as 20 seconds) and are not technical in nature as I have no technical training. The idea is that if I can figure out how to do this, anyone can. And purchasing a part on Ebay and installing it myself easily saved me thousands of dollars. In the meantime, below is a still that shows the potential complexity of this task as I first viewed it.
The processor worked! I followed the steps in the manual to set it up at the dock and took her for a sea trial which failed. I called Furuno and they told me that I didn’t clear the memory. Of course the manual is designed to install a brand new unit which doesn’t require the memory to be cleared. Duh…
Clayton from Furuno made it easy for me to understand and walked me through the entire set up process. We finished but didn’t want to take another day for a sea trial and left after a couple of more days at the dock having to wait for the bad weather to pass. On our trip heading to Norfolk we sea trialed the autopilot and it crapped out again after about 20 way points and 20 minutes. The auto pilot saga continues…
Morehead City to Pungo Creek through the Neuse River – July 31, 2017
We experienced a really tough day on the Neuse. It was more like traversing an inlet on a bad day. See the clip below.
Pungo Creek to south of Coinjock through the Albemarle Sound and one long canal!– August 1, 2017
The Albermarle Sound is huge and shallow except for the channels which are very clearly marked. It was flat calm, early August, no breeze and sun blazing. We cruised all day, as usual, and anchored up at a spot I had previously scoped out. I don’t think we’ve covered this before but many of you are probably wondering how we choose anchorages. It’s not completely by chance.
First off, many friends, such as the Youngers, and Glasses make suggestions because they’ve traversed the ICW many times. Plus we have a spiral bound book which includes all the charts of the ICW and suggested anchorages. Lastly, we have access to a website called Active Captain which posts reviews from other cruisers who have stayed there before. They post detail about depths, pros and cons, etc. and between all of the intel, including the WEATHER, we make as informed a decision as possible. So far we’ve done well. The anchorage south of Coinjock was just fine – nice a quiet the way we like it.
Coinjock to Chesapeake, VA (Best dinner yet) – August 2, 2017
Another glorious day on the ICW through better scenery than yesterday, plus we were looking forward to our first lock. We had never done one (it was part of the initial training package that we signed up for with Captains Chris and Alyse but we just didn’t get to it). Locks are really interesting. They are used to adjust the water levels between bodies of water. You drive the boat into it, tie up along side – each one’s tie on procedures are different so we’re told – and wait for them to open the gates. Sometimes the water goes up, sometimes down I suppose. We were fortunate that for our first time, the water level didn’t change that much so we weren’t spooked, although I’m told that some locks adjust many feet – that would be really strange.
Great Bridge Lock before Chesapeake, VA
We made it our marina nice and early – about 4 pm. We chose the Top Rack Marina because it was super inexpensive (I think $35/day including power), and had the least expensive diesel fuel in VA ($2.08) where we wanted to top off. The other enticement was that the dock master raved about the onsite restaurant and spouted off about the duck and rack of lamb. So we cleaned up and went to the restaurant where we were pleasantly surprised to find great ambiance, great service, and a fabulous meal. Meryl had crab stuffed shrimp and I had the duck, which was among the best I have ever eaten – Meryl seconds that opinion. We also enjoyed great soups, bread and the wines are very good. Frankly, one of the best meals we’ve had in a while, notwithstanding the fact that this is a “marina” restaurant. Definitely would return!
Chesapeake to Tangier Island, VA through Norfolk – August 3, 2017
First of all, traveling through the last few miles of the ICW (it ends/starts in Norfolk) witnessing all the huge naval vessels is site to see. It’s totally different than it is by land.
Naval ships in the harbor in Norfolk, VA
Four carriers – I counted at least seven, all of which appeared to be undergoing some restoration/maintenance
We also saw a couple of submarines, and countless other naval war ships. Even got buzzed by a Blackhawk (I think that’s what it is).
Tangier Island is historic and somewhat of a tourist attraction by ferry. The island is basically a fishing village in the middle of the Chesapeake populated by about 400 soles many of whom were born there and never left. I think the following pictures sums it up.
Tangier Island to Seaford, DE (actually Blades) up the Nanticoke River (nicest river yet) – August 4, 2017
We had a beautiful cruising to Tangier Island but the cruise from Tangier to Seaford was even more beautiful. We found the mouth of the Nanticoke River, and followed the charts up through a wide, winding river that so far is the prettiest we’ve seen. The homes/mini-estates and farms along the river bank are understated and tastefully manicured, the water is clean and the flora is vibrant. It is extremely well marked due to all the commercial traffic that uses this river. At the headwaters of the river – Seaford – is the original Dupont plant that manufactured nylon for the military in WWII. The plant still exists today, under Koch Brothers ownership, is a skeleton of what it was back in the day when 5,000 people worked there, but it is still open and producing nylon.
Roy Whitaker who built our new tender met us in Vienna a couple of hours down river from Seaford. We picked him up at the municipal dock for the ride up river and to the marina. As the river narrowed it became even prettier until we hit Seaford proper and entered the industrial part of the area. Even then, it was well kept, clean, and unobtrusive. Roy was extremely helpful in showing me the way through the narrow railroad bridge just before the marina. I’m glad he was aboard.
That night Roy and Grace took us to their house to see our new Blue Water Baby and feed us dinner – home made crab cakes (what else would you expect during the summer in the Delmarva peninsula on river’s edge – along with baked tuna freshly caught a couple days prior when Roy went offshore from Ocean City MD with some buddies.
Our new tender is gorgeous and we just love her
Autopilot saga continued…
Once we arrived in Seaford, I diagnosed the system once again and was convinced it was the pump motor but didn’t have enough technical expertise to understand why. We hired the local Furuno dealer to come aboard and diagnose the problem. It was determined that the pump motor was drawing too much current (I am not sure they actually performed a multimeter test on the motor as I wasn’t in the cave at the time) which results in the processor shutting down. Seems reasonable but all my electronics friends don’t concur and suggest that it was the pump all along and that my original processor (which I still have) is just fine. Well…the only way to find out is to reinstall it and that’s not going to happen….so I’ll keep it as an emergency spare and if I need it someday I will pray that my friends are right (they usually are – just like my wife!) and that it works.
Bottom line is that they ordered a new pump/motor from Furuno and installed it after two visits to diagnose it and show up without all the parts they needed….it’s a boat, but meanwhile it works great and we’re thrilled to have it back.
The Nanticoke River Marine Park – August 4 – 17, 2017
This is the marina where we stayed. There’s a couple of restaurants withing walking distance, although Meryl will tell you there’s only one and we ate there twice and it was o.k. It was the type of place we’ve all seen that you can tell has changed hands a dozen times and nothing sticks. This one won’t either.
The hardware store is about a 1.5 miles away. I walked it one day as I needed some supplies, and of course walked back. Nothing special except the people loved hearing that we live on a boat and we’re at their municipal marina.
It took about a week to get the Blue Water Baby fitted onto our deck. Roy had to disassemble rails from our tender deck and draw plans and engineer a new cradle for her and have her fabricated. Meanwhile he had to finish it and bring it aboard, and we measured several times with and without the boat atop to get its placement just right (not as easy as it sounds) and have it angled just right so that water drains properly when it rains. It had to be fastened correctly and all the old holes (from the removal of the old cradle and rails) properly filled, etc. Roy also replaced our crane cable (which isn’t really cable but spectra wire which isn’t wire but polypropylene cabling much thicker than what we had. It all took time and it was a big job….
There’s more to show and tell about the our stay in Seaford – it’s all fun – but enough is enough and it’s time to go to press!
There’s another week’s worth of updates to write about as we sit at anchor just north of Quantico in the Potomac River headed for D.C. tomorrow but it will just have to wait, and you will have to wait with me!
Until next time….