Friday, September 10, 2021

And Now a Beautiful Day

 I am underway heading out the Beaufort River. In a few minutes I will turn right and head up Port Royal Sound, follow the Intracoastal Waterway behind Hilton Head and Daufuskie Island, and then cross the Savannah River to Thunderbolt.

I had almost no wind from Tropical Storm Mindy yesterday, but I drove through rain and at times low visibility all morning. By around 11:30 am the rain had mostly stopped and by noon I was seeing glimpses of blue sky among the lingering clouds. 

I had planned to spend last night at Safe Harbor Beaufort Marina but the marina was full from boats that had elected to lay over an extra day due to Mindy. So I went just a couple of miles further to what has always been the Port Royal Landing Marina, but is now called Safe Harbor Port Royal. Safe Harbor is a company that has been buying up marinas everywhere. It was sold to a real estate investment trust called Sun Communities for $2.1 billion a year ago. Given what I have spent on marinas through the years, I'm guessing they are a good investment. The Port Royal property was very nice and had a decent restaurant with outdoor dining right on the property.

This morning the weather is just spectacular. It is 73 degrees now with a high today expected to be 82 and a low tonight of 70. This is considered downright chilly in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Seas are still kicked up from the storms and are at 4-5 feet. Winds are at around 15 knots from the northeast. The ride in the Waterway is a little bumpy but comfortable as I make the turn into Port Royal Sound. I am exposed to the open ocean for a short time and I can tell I should stay in the Waterway today. 

The incoming tide in the sound is boosting my speed to nearly 10 knots. Practically flying.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suddenly It's Mindy

It is a stormy evening here on John's Island near Charleston. I drove up yesterday in a rental car to retrieve Division Belle from Ross Marine, with plans to depart early tomorrow to catch the high tide near noon crossing the shallowest areas of the Intracoastal Waterway between here and Beaufort, SC. 

I've been watching the radar and following the low pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico, which developed very quickly this afternoon into tropical storm Mindy. Right now at 6:20 pm Wednesday, I'm glad to be securely tied to the dock. But this is a very fast-moving storm and should be out in the Atlantic by tomorrow afternoon. 

SUMMARY OF 500 PM CDT...2200 UTC...INFORMATION

---------------------------------------------------

LOCATION...29.2N 86.1W

ABOUT 75 MI...120 KM WSW OF APALACHICOLA FLORIDA

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...45 MPH...75 KM/H

PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 50 DEGREES AT 21 MPH...33 KM/H

MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1004 MB...29.65 INCHES

It looks like the worst will pass overnight to the south of me so I am hoping for not too bad a weather day tomorrow. I will be in the Intracoastal Waterway, but thunderstorms and high wind are still no fun. I'll be keeping an eye on the weather overnight.



Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Church Creek



 It has been a long time since I have posted here, and unfortunately we have made little use of the boat. We did have a gathering on the boat out in the river near our home for the local Fourth of July fireworks display. It was a great evening with some good friends, and because of tides, I spent the night out at anchor to bring the boat back in at high tide in the morning. Since then, we have had all of our grandchildren at Ford for a week of kids' camp and taken a trip to stay with friends for a few days in Sun Valley, Idaho. Next week, we go to Highlands, NC for a two-week escape from the hot humid weather at home.

For now, I am simply repositioning the boat for maintenance, primarily for new bottom paint. I am headed to Ross Marine on Johns Island near Charleston. I left home near noon Monday and anchored that night in the Herb River, near Thunderbolt and close to the Savannah Yacht Club. After some nearby rain, it cooled a little to 86 degrees. I enjoyed the back deck for a while until I was chased inside by bugs. I turned off all the lights and hid in the dark.

Tuesday night I stayed at the Beaufort Town Docks, now called the Beaufort Safe Harbor Marina. It was nice to get off the boat and walk around the town a bit, but it was very hot and humid. Today I made my way up to the Church Creek anchorage, just short of my destination tomorrow. I have used this anchorage about four times now and it is always delightful. It is open enough for some breeze and protected from wakes on the Intracoastal Waterway. I captured the image above of a gigantic storm about 50 miles to the west near sunset. As the sky darkened, I was treated to an impressive lightning display as the storm moved south toward Statesboro, GA. Tomorrow I will be at the boatyard getting the work organized, and I have a rental car reserved to drive home Friday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Email service going away

 UPDATE: With some tech support from Karolina at follow.it, I think anyone following this blog by email will be added to the new email feed. You should receive an email from follow.it asking you to verify that you want to receive these emails. We hope you will stick with us.

There are 48 friends who follow this blog by email, but the service is about to be discontinued. I have received the following notice from Blogger (Google): 

"FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner) is going away. You are receiving this information because your blog uses the FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner). Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021." 

So, what to do? You can always read the blog directly at www.divisionbelle.voyage. Additionally, I am also trying out a new link on the upper right side of the blog homepage now called "Follow By Email". I'm not sure how well it will work or how to keep up with who subscribes, but you are welcome to try it. I might just will enter the email addresses of current subscribers and you can accept the new service or not when it requests verification.

Honestly, there has been little to read here for awhile because we haven't been able to use the boat as much as I would like. I'm hoping that will change, and I appreciate each of you who follow our exploits.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Prince of Tides

Yesterday I moved the boat from Ford to Thunderbolt, the area where the Intracoastal Waterway passes closest to Savannah. It takes approximately 40 minutes to drive my car from home to Thunderbolt, but in my boat it is a winding 33 nautical mile passage that takes nearly five hours. I go part way down the Ogeechee River to a spot where it connects to the Grove River. The Grove then merges into the Little Ogeechee River which empties out into Ossabaw Sound where I join the Intracoastal Waterway north to Thunderbolt.

I am normally required by my draft to depart our marina at Ford close to high tide and I benefit from the tidal current rushing out that adds to my usual 7.5-knot pace. This week, because of the full moon close to the earth, our tides have been extreme. The range between high and low tide measured at Fort McAllister is normally between six and seven feet. But today for example, there is a low tide this afternoon of negative one foot followed by a high tide tonight of 8.7 feet -- a range of 9.7 feet. (Tides are expressed relative to "Mean Lower Low Water", which is the average height of the lowest tide recorded at a tide station each day during a standardized 19-year recording period.) All of this water dropping nearly 10 feet over about six hours creates very strong currents, and at one point yesterday I was cruising at nearly 11 knots downstream. It was a fun ride and shaved roughly 30 minutes off of my trip. 

The reason for this trip is a story about problems in the "supply chain" for many items right now. Last week, when taking my boat to Thunderbolt for some minor electronics issues, the depth finder started acting up. It would rapidly jump around showing random depths that had nothing to do with reality. After some diagnosis by Mike King of Coastal Marine Electronics and a discussion with Garmin, it was determined that the transducer that fits through the hull of the boat was faulty. This is a fancy and rather expensive forward-looking sonar that shows the depth out in front of the boat to help avoid running aground. Mike called to tell me the good news was that that the transducer is under warranty and the bad news was that Garmin had none in stock and didn't know when they would be available. In fact, there was some indication it might be next year before I could get it replaced. 

I needed an alternative. It is pretty treacherous to operate in waters in this area without any indication of water depth. So Mike came up with a solution. I have an additional transducer that is a simple paddlewheel to show speed through the water. We could replace it with a not-too-expensive "tri-mode" transducer that would show depth, speed, and water temperature. The replacement was supposed to fit into the existing sleeve through the hull, but of course it didn't. So we scheduled to have the boat hauled out this week to replace the sleeve and install the back-up transducer.

Meanwhile, after all of this messing about, the replacement Garmin transducer that could have taken a year actually arrived at my house last Friday. So I brought the boat back to Thunderbolt yesterday to have it hauled out to both replace the Garmin and go ahead and put in the other we ordered as a back-up.

The haul out was scheduled for today, but when I arrived at Thunderbolt yesterday I learned that the lift used to haul boats had a flat tire. These are serious tires for a lift that picks up boats weighing up to 150,000 pounds. The tire is being repaired today but I didn't want the boat hauled out Friday only to sit in the hot sun without air conditioning until Tuesday after the holiday weekend. So the schedule now is to haul it Tuesday and put it back in the water Wednesday. I should be bringing it back home next Thursday. Sigh...

Long story, but this is often how things work with boats. We will eventually have everything in order.


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Starlink

We presently use cellular internet on the boat. When we first added the boat Hotspot to our so-called "unlimited" Verizon account for a mere $10 a month, we quickly found out that for a hotspot, the data is throttled back to an unusable speed after 15 GB of use in a month. Working from computers, streaming films to our TV, etc. can use this amount of data in a day. So we then got a SIM card with really unlimited unthrottled data. It is more expensive but great to use when we are staying on the boat. But it is somewhat wasted when it is docked for long periods (Although I do use the boat as a man-cave office when it is docked here near our home). Really high speed satellite data service  requires the large domes you see on mega yachts, and is super expensive.

So I have followed with great interest the development of the Starlink internet service by SpaceX, Elon Musk's plan to launch eventually 42,000 small satellites by 2027. Anyone who has been traveling up or down the east coast of Florida has noted regular launches of rockets from Cape Canaveral carrying 60 satellites up at a time to place into orbit. It is fascinating that the rockets are reusable and land on drone ships when they return to earth. One of these robotic ships is called "Just Read the Instructions" and another is called "Of Course I still Love You". The names were originally used for spaceships in books by sci-fi author Iain M. Banks.

Currently there are around 1,000 satellites in operation and Starlink is offering "Better Than Nothing Beta" service to a limited number of users in some parts of the world, including most of the United States. A kit includes a small dish to be mounted outdoors clear of obstacles, a modem and WiFi router for the house, and a 100-foot cord to connect the two. The cost is around $500 for the kit and $100 a month for internet service. SpaceX said last October that users should expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps, with intermittent outages. Some users are getting much higher speeds -- the highest download speed to date was 209.17 Mbps, recorded in New York and one person in Utah recorded a speed test showing 215 Mbps.

So can it work on a boat? The answer for now seems to be no, unless the boat never moves. While the dish will automatically track the overhead satellites, it will not accommodate rocking and rolling on a boat. Some users have had luck with a gyroscopic mount or with the type of gimbal mount used for radar on sailboats, but there are some reports of the system shutting down when it senses motion and requiring a reboot. It is all basically experimental for now. More importantly, the system only broadcasts to the service address you give when ordering the system. As the Starlink website states: 

Starlink satellites are scheduled to send internet down to all users within a designated area on the ground. This designated area is referred to as a cell.

Your Starlink is assigned to a single cell. If you move your Starlink outside of its assigned cell, a satellite will not be scheduled to serve your Starlink and you will not receive internet. This is constrained by geometry and is not arbitrary geofencing.

Starlink has said that they are working on "mobility solutions" that might be accomplished in the future by a software update to the satellites. But at least for now, I don't see any way to use the service on a boat or motor home, or to otherwise move it from place to place. I'm hoping one day it will be useful for people on the go.



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Finally Enjoying the Boat

 We finally got to enjoy our boat a bit over the weekend. We travelled from Ford to Hilton Head Friday and spent the weekend, returning yesterday. It was only a short trip but a great escape for both of us, and we were blessed with terrific weather after what has seemed like a long cold winter. We saw one of my college roommates and his wife briefly Friday night and for dinner outdoors Saturday. They had rented a house in Hilton Head for February to escape the weather in the DC area. It was good to see them both and catch up.

We went for bike rides Saturday and Sunday. It was a 16-mile ride Saturday out to lunch and back, and a shorter ride Sunday that included a mile or two on the beach. All-in-all a perfect getaway.

Going up and back we went offshore between the Ossabaw Sound and Calibogue Sound behind Hilton Head. Friday it was calm and took seven hours. Yesterday, seas were around three feet and the current was against us up the rivers back to Ford. As a result of bouncy seas and the strong current, the trip took nine hours from 8 am until 5 pm.

After all of the many repairs since our ill-fated Bahamas trip a year ago, it is great to be having fun on the boat again.