Friday, October 8, 2021

Division Belle has new owners

When we first purchased Division Belle on October 11, 2018, we said to ourselves that we would enjoy the boat for two or three years. It has now been almost exactly three years, and she has been sold to a lovely couple from Canada. 

It is a pretty good time to sell a boat. Demand has been high and supply low. But the main reason for the sale is that we have been unable to use the boat as much as I had anticipated. People use boats in different ways. Some live aboard. Some go out for the day. Some make great ocean passages around the world. But for us a boat has always been like a moveable second home. We have taken boats to The Bahamas, the Florida Keys, the Chesapeake Bay, Maine, and many other spots closer to home. We would leave our boat somewhere for months, traveling back and forth to spend time on it. 

Being on a boat is ideal during the Covid pandemic, but the logistics of getting to and from it have been challenging. We moved Division Belle south and got to the Bahamas in March of 2020, planning on flying back and forth to enjoy the islands. Alas, the borders were closed due to Covid and the boat sat in Bimini for four months before we were allowed back to bring her home in July. Even in the U.S., we often relied on airlines or one-way car rentals to travel to and from the boat, but we all know how difficult that has become. 

So it just makes sense to sell her, but it nevertheless breaks my heart. I have loved this boat and I had high hopes for more adventures and good times than we were able to enjoy. It has been fun and a great privilege to own her. I tinkered on her almost daily when she was docked near home and I travelled on her more than 3,600 nautical miles putting about 585 hours on the engine. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We completed the surveys and sea trials a couple of weeks ago and the purchasers accepted the boat. I moved her up to Thunderbolt Wednesday and drove her into South Carolina waters today where Division Belle was formally delivered to her new owners.

All good things come to an end. So, many thanks to those who have shown an interest and followed this blog. It's been fun. We shall see what new adventures lie ahead. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Ingram

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. 



LOCATION...29.2N 86.1W





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, I think anyone following this blog by email will be added to the new email feed. You should receive an email from 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 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


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.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Volts, Amps and Other Nerdy Stuff

Friday I had the six "house" batteries replaced on Division Belle.  I've been testing batteries and looking at alternatives for weeks, and my bride has made it abundantly clear that most people have no interest in such things. So you are welcome to skip this post if you'd like.

Heavy Lifting

The batteries that came with the boat in October of 2018 were not marked with the date installed, and were depleted to a fraction of their original capacity. The new batteries are a different brand (Lifeline) but are the same size as the old. They are "8D" batteries that are quite large and weigh about 160 lbs. each. The installation was a 10-hour job for an electrician and a very strong young man who both work for Performance Power Systems nearby in Savannah. They did a great job that was enormously difficult given the location of these batteries in fiberglass boxes in the four-foot tall engine room.

Engine Room battery boxes

So what are the house batteries and why are they important? Virtually all of the lighting and electronics on the boat as well as the refrigerator, water and other pumps, and vent fans are powered by these batteries. The batteries are nearly always being charged by a charger powered either by shore power or our generator, or by a large alternator attached to the main engine when we are underway. Since they are nearly always fully-charged, the capacity of the house battery bank is only important if we are not running the engine, connected to shore power, or running the generator.

Anchored out for example, we run our generator when we need hot water or when we need heat or air conditioning, but we do not wish to run it any more than necessary. It consumes fuel, it needs to be serviced and have its oil changed after set periods of use, and most importantly, it is noisy. So for example if we are anchored out in beautiful weather for days at a time, we would run the generator periodically to charge batteries and produce hot water, but there is nothing nicer than shutting it off for a quiet dinner on the aft deck or on the bridge.

Each of these batteries is nominally 12 volts and is rated at 255 amp hours. Each pair of batteries is connected "in series" creating 24 volts rated at 255 amp hours. And then the three pairs are connected "in parallel" to create a bank producing 24 volts rated at 765 amp hours. A bank rated at 765 amp hours means it has a capacity to produce 765 amps over a 20-hour period, or 38.25 amps per hour. 

Amp hour ratings are important for comparing batteries but running batteries all the way down shortens their life considerably. In fact, most battery makers and experts recommend never discharging this type of battery by more than 50% of capacity. In my case that would mean I could use 38.25 amps for about 10 hours or, more likely, around 25 amps per hour for 15 hours. While sophisticated gauges are available to monitor this precisely, I don't have one. In my case a decent estimate of 50% depth of discharge can be made by monitoring the battery voltage and never allowing it to drop below about 24.2 volts while under a load.

When we are asleep, our boat will draw about 8 amps just from things that are always on. When we are up with lights on, the refrigerator opening and closing, the water pump running on occasion, etc. the average amp draw might approach 25 amps. So by my estimates, shutting off the generator to have dinner we should be able to easily leave it off until some time the next day. This can be tried out and monitored to get a good idea of our usage.

The new batteries and the ones they replaced are called Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries. These are maintenance free and have tremendous capacity without worrying about filling water as required with conventional "flooded" batteries. 

Many boats being produced today and many older boats are converting to Lithium Ion batteries, and I looked at a conversion carefully. Lithium batteries have tremendous advantages such as fast charging and being able to use nearly 100% of their rated capacity. Thus, lower amp hour capacities are needed allowing for smaller, lighter batteries. In our case a conversion to Lithium would have had benefits but it would have required more expensive batteries, relocating the batteries to a cooler spot out of the engine room, a new charger, a battery monitoring system, and all of the rewiring to accomplish such a change. For us, it came down to how we use the boat and the fact that almost all of the time our batteries are fully charged and we do not need to go for long periods without recharging.

Installing the new batteries did give me an opportunity to figure out the wiring on the boat and look at our charging systems. I have figured out the mysteries and I now think I understand how the system works.

So all I need to do now is use the boat. It will be nice to anchor out in mild temperatures and just see how these batteries perform. I hope it is soon. In Georgia now it is cold and it has been raining, seemingly forever.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Deck the Deck with Boughs of Holly


Division Belle with her wreath and Christmas lights
We are home for the holidays this year and will not be seeing any of our family members because of Covid 19. We will be having dinner outdoors Christmas Eve with four of our friends here at Ford, but the festivities will be subdued. We did put a wreath and some lights on Division Belle and plan to spend this evening with friends at the marina hoping for a glimpse of the "Christmas Star" at around 6:30 pm.

One would think that traveling on a boat like ours would be the perfect way to quarantine and stay safe, but it has turned out to be a very difficult year for boating. It started when we headed south in January, bound for the Bahamas. Our idea was to get the boat into the Exumas in the southern part of the Bahamas, and fly down for several two-week stays during the spring. Given our two beloved dogs and the Lovely Laura Lee's work, we need to be able to travel back and forth to wherever the boat is located. 

Things did not go as planned. Weather was uncooperative for ocean travel on the way south and we were mostly confined to the Intracoastal Waterway. The boat was left at a boatyard in Jacksonville for about two weeks for some minor repairs, and at a marina in Stuart for most of a month we needed to be at home. We finally reached Fort Lauderdale near the end of February. Without good weather to cross to Bimini, my bride came home and I finally got an acceptable but rough crossing day to Bimini with a hired mate on March 4. I left the boat at Brown's Marina in Bimini, took a small seaplane back to Fort Lauderdale, and drove home in a rental car. In those days, it was all about wiping things down and using hand sanitizer. Covid 19 was not thought to be transmitted through the air.

As March progressed, lockdowns and travel restrictions began to be implemented. Everyone recommended no unnecessary travel, and by the end of March the Bahamas had closed their borders, meaning I could not get there to return the boat to the US. It was July first when we were finally allowed to re-enter the country and depart on our boat the next day. By mid-July the borders were closed again, so we were fortunate to get out of there. The boat was a little worse for wear, but we have gradually been getting her back in good shape.

We had a good trip back up the east coast in July, and in September we took the boat up to the Oriental, NC area where we spent some time before heading back home with her. But some things have changed for us about cruising because of the pandemic. For one, we always enjoyed stops where we could walk around and go out to dinner. Now we only dine at restaurants with spacious outdoor dining where the staff wears masks, or we get takeout food and eat on the boat. Second, because of our need to get home and back to the boat, we will now only venture as far as we can go and rent a car back home in some sort of reasonable driving time. River Dunes near Oriental was about the northern limit and was a 6 1/2 hour drive from home. In the coming year we are considering a cruise up the St. Johns River from Jacksonville, and perhaps taking the boat to the west coast of Florida within some kind of reasonable driving distance. Thoughts of the Chesapeake Bay or New England in summer or the Bahamas in winter are banished for now.

As the year comes to a close and the holiday season is upon us, we are mindful of how fortunate we are and how many individuals have lost their lives, their loved ones, or have suffered medical or economic distress from this pandemic. We are doing what we can and we urge everyone to support the organizations of your choice that are assisting the most vulnerable among us.

Our best wishes to you all for a joyous holiday season and a happier new year than this one has been.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Messing About on the Way Home

Grove River Ogeechee River Connector

 When I first brought a boat to The Ford Plantation in 2000, there was only one winding route from the mouth of the Ogeechee River approximately 17 miles to the marina basin here. There was a spot, shown above, where the Ogeechee flowed very close to the much smaller Grove River. Sometimes, when tides were especially high, water flowed over this low-lying bridge of land, temporarily connecting the two rivers. One weekend, about 15 years ago, a group of kids with boats went to the spot with shovels and sped up what Mother Nature already had in mind by digging a small trench connecting the two rivers. Because of uneven tide levels between the two rivers, water poured through the trench as the tide came in and out twice every 24 hours. Soon, the rivers were totally connected, and the cut had grown to a depth that small boats could pass between them. The cut continued to grow and the mud bottom continued to wash away. Today, as I passed through this cut at high tide, it was 55 feet deep and perhaps 50 yards wide. The cut has not only opened a navigation route, it has changed tides and currents throughout the network of rivers here.

This new cut created a shortcut for me if I am moving the boat north from Ford or south to Ford. Coming from the north, miles are cut off as I turn up the Little Ogeechee River north of Hell Gate, turn up the Grove River, and cut over to the Ogeechee. From Thunderbolt, what could be a two-day trip to catch the tides right has turned into an easy five hours timed to arrive at Ford close to high tide.

Today it took about a half hour longer than usual because I had two tasks to accomplish along the way. First, my autopilot compass had been acting up on my last trip and I asked Mike King of Coastal Marine Electronics to see if he could find where the compass is remotely located and determine what was wrong with it. Mike tracked the wire and found the compass mounted low in a cabinet under a shelf in the pilothouse. Since you can't see the compass without lying down on the floor and looking up under the shelf, I had no idea where it was. Stored low in that cabinet right beside the compass was a set of headphones I use with my sideband radio. Speakers, including headphones, contain magnets. So it was no wonder the compass was not acting right. Since the autopilot heading was stable but different from the regular compass heading after moving the headset, Mike suggested I go through the sea trial setup procedure which involves "swinging the compass" by putting the autopilot into sea trial mode and turning in a few circles slowly until it figures out its deviation by itself. I went through the procedure today and, presto, the autopilot is working great. In calm waters it is aligned with the course unless the boat is "crabbing" because of wind or current.

Compass heading perfectly aligned with GPS course over ground

My other task was to adjust the readout from a new speed transducer that has been installed on the boat. This is a little paddlewheel that measures the boat's speed through the water as opposed to GPS speed over ground. I knew it was off because at my normal cruise setting, it showed I was doing only 5 knots through the water. With the current behind me, my GPS speed over ground was around 8.5 knots so I turned around and went the opposite direction where I had a speed over ground of 6.5 knots. This meant that the speed through the water was actually the average of these two readings, or 7.5 knots. I made the adjustment and all is well now.

Departing Thunderbolt single-handed at 7:30 this morning, I arrived back home at Ford at 1:00 pm. The boat will be resting here for awhile where it serves as my man cave. It is docked here (just trying this out).

Our cruising choices are limited right now by our need to get back and forth from the boat to home and our unwillingness to fly during the Covid 19 pandemic. Thinking this through, we have a few ideas for interesting trips all within a few hours drive from home. We'll keep you posted when we head out in the new year.

If I don't post again, best wishes to everyone for a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year. It won't take much for 2021 to be better than 2020.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Lesson Learned

I generally avoid talking much on this blog about boat maintenance, but in this case I thought I would share an incident that could have been much worse, and what I learned from it. It could be helpful to someone.

Before purchasing Division Belle two years ago I had it inspected by Steve D'Antonio. Steve is widely respected in the marine industry and his pre-buy inspections more than pay for themselves in safety and in negotiating the purchase price. He's extremely thorough. You can see Steve's website here. 

One of Steve's recommendations for my boat read as follows: “Junction box above batteries, a loose connection is arcing and has caused heat damage.” The dealer/broker where I bought the boat has electricians, carpenters, etc. for commissioning and maintaining customer boats, so I gave them an initial repair list including this item to be done before I used the boat. They checked it off the list as complete. Shame on me I never opened the junction box to check. It couldn't possibly have been done at all with the result that happened to me.

So last week the main engine large alternator quit charging the house batteries when underway. On my stop in Georgetown I did some basic troubleshooting at the alternator and regulator but could not find an issue. So when I arrived at the Hinckley yard in Thunderbolt I asked them to check it out. When the electrician came up from the engine room he said “Your alternator is working fine but your problem could be the melted junction box on the aft bulkhead of the engine room.” "Wait", I asked, "Did you say melted junction box?" 

The junction box is where the wires from the alternator connect to the house batteries. You can see above that the wiring had remained loose and the entire connection burned up and melted the junction box. I'm lucky it didn't start a real fire. Wiring needs to be very tightly connected, on a boat or in your house.

All is fixed now, but I have learned the hard way to inspect work I am told was done. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Home Again

Log 22234

Hinckley Yacht Services -- Thunderbolt, GA

I was delayed leaving Beaufort yesterday by strong current and 30-knot winds at 7 am. No one was stirring until the marina opened at 8:30. Single-handed and parked with boats close to me forward and aft, I could not easily get away without someone handling the lines for me on the dock.

While winds were strong and cold heading down the Beaufort River, I was snug in my pilothouse with no problems at all. Planning to be in the ICW all day, I did not think to batten down as I would going to sea. So I was somewhat shocked at the severity of the wind and seas when I entered Port Royal Sound. The seas were only about three feet, but with a short period and mostly right on my nose. I heard cabinets and drawers flapping around and the sounds of everything falling off the counters in the galley and saloon, but there was little I could do single-handed, especially since my autopilot has not been functioning well.

Nothing was harmed, but it was a long bashing ride across the sound until I reached the calm behind Hilton Head. From the south end of Hilton Head I normally go out a ways into the ocean and then turn into the Savannah River ship channel to come in and rejoin the ICW. Given the wind and seas, I opted to stay in the waterway route that goes behind Daufuskee Island and through Walls Cut and Fields Cut. Following Bob423's tracks (discussed in my 11/29/20 entry), I had no trouble, but it was nearing low tide and I found a couple of areas with just seven feet of depth. It was a little close with my six-foot draft boat, but I never touched bottom.

I arrived in Thunderbolt at 2:45 pm, where the boat will stay for a few days for finishing up some of the recent electronics work and fixing a few other squawks. There's always something.

It's good to be home with my bride and dogs. I should get the boat back up to The Ford Plantation sometime next week. Thanks for following along.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Brisk Weather

Log 22194

Beaufort, SC

I was awakened at about 5 this morning by the boat rocking and rolling in the wind at anchor. The anchor did indeed hold through it all. It was raining and a couple of severe storms were headed my way. As luck would have it the cold front was fast-moving and took the severe storms off the coast while they were still south of me. As a result of the weather, my plans to get away at 7 am were dashed, so I had a leisurely morning before hoisting the anchor at around 8:30.

The delay left me pushing hard to get through the shallow areas while the tide was high enough to avoid dragging my bottom. I finally got through the last tough spot at 12:30, just in the nick of time. I saw a couple of areas with depths of under eight feet. My draft is six feet so I had little room to spare. 

One of the results of this race to avoid low tide this morning was my arrival in Beaufort at precisely dead low tide this afternoon around 3 pm. I had planned on spending the night at Lady's Island Marina but the charted 9-foot channel to its dock proved to be only about five feet deep today. This was likely caused by both the low tide and the very strong winds driving water out of the area. I made three probing passes at the entrance but ran into mud each time. So I am instead at the Beaufort Town Docks, right downtown.

The ride was comfortable on my 50-ton ship, but there were winds gusting to 35 knots all day. In the open areas of the large rivers the chop kicked up a lot of spray. I ran the windshield wipers nearly all day, and the boat will need a bath as soon as weather permits. The low tonight in Beaufort is expected to be 36°. Right now the wind is at about 15 knots, so the wind chill is, well, chilling.

Having dined last night on sardines and crackers at anchor in the rain, I was looking forward to the onsite restaurant at Lady's Island Marina. Unfortunately everything I would like in Beaufort proper is closed on Monday night. I do have the makings of a cheese omelet on board, which will have to do tonight.

I will shove off early tomorrow and expect to be in Thunderbolt by tomorrow afternoon. There are a few loose ends that my electronics guy, Mike King of Coastal Marine Electronics, needs to deal with before I bring the boat back home to Ford probably next weekend.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Far from the Shallow

 Log 22151

Church Creek Anchorage, Wadmalaw Island, SC

I started today moving the boat back home from Tolers Cove Marina near Charleston. The planning for this trip was complicated by low tides near mid-day and the need to pass through some notoriously shallow spots on the Intracoastal Waterway. I can usually make it from Charleston to Beaufort in a day and from there to Thunderbolt in Savannah on the second day. This time, I decided to travel a few hours today in fairly deep water so I can get through the shallows tomorrow when tides are high in the morning. 

I travelled today from Tolers Cove at statute mile marker 462 for 26 statute miles in 2 1/2 hours to Church Creek Anchorage. Where I'm anchored right now, high tide tomorrow morning will be at 9:19 and the next low tide will be at 3:01 tomorrow afternoon. I am anchored near statute mile 488 of the ICW and Beaufort is at mile 536. It should take me around six hours to Beaufort and, with a start around sunrise, I should easily get through the shallows before noon.

I am helped enormously these days by a man named Robert Sherer. He goes by the name "Bob423" and has written a book, updated annually, which is currently named the "2020 ICW Cruising Guide". I keep a copy handy on Kindle. Bob also hosts a private Facebook Group with more than 9,000 members, It is a gathering place for the many boaters moving up and down the ICW to share information, ask questions, and be made aware of various bits of information such as bridge heights, lock closings, etc.

But by far the most helpful thing Bob does is share the tracks he saves on his annual trip from Virginia to Key West in the fall and back again in the spring. These tracks are amazing and can easily be downloaded and displayed on chart plotter apps such as Aqua Map and Navionics. Once I discovered these tracks, I wouldn't travel the ICW without them. Here's the track I will be using in the first shallow area tomorrow, shown with colored survey data from the Corps of Engineers. You can see that the blue dotted line of Bob's track is nowhere near the red and green ICW markers. I've learned to have faith.

The weather was rainy today, off and on, but I managed to dodge the biggest storm that passed nearby offshore. There is more to come and a Gale Warning is in effect for offshore waters nearby tonight and tomorrow. It says: 

GALE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 7 PM EST MONDAY...Southwest winds 20 to 30 kt with gusts up to 40 kt and seas 6 to 9 ft expected. 

So I'm glad to not be at sea tonight and buttoned down in my anchorage. Here's hoping the anchor holds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Day Five

 Log 22118

Mount Pleasant, SC

We had an uneventful day Monday and arrived in Mount Pleasant (Charleston) at 3:20 in the afternoon. We cooked a last meal on board Monday night and spent this morning packing up and preparing to leave. We rented a car around noon and I am safely back at home.

A special thanks to my friend Paul Hamilton for helping me out. He is great company and extremely helpful with anything that needs to be done. Driving the boat in the Intracoastal Waterway can be wearing, but having someone who will alternate two-hour shifts breaks up the day nicely. This is the "Bosun's" third trip on this boat and he is welcome back any time. Thanks Paul.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Day Four


Waccamaw River
Log 22049

Waccamaw River, SC

We are cruising in the Intracoastal Waterway between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. We should get to Georgetown this afternoon and to Charleston tomorrow. The trip has been pleasant and uneventful, except for being radio witnesses to a tragedy. 

One man was killed yesterday when a boat overturned in breaking waves in Carolina Beach Inlet. We listened to a blow-by-blow report mostly from a cool and capable boater who notified the Coast Guard, got EMT's called to the closest marina, and helped get the occupants to the marina. Another boater had braved his way into the breakers, nearly capsizing himself, and recovered the four occupants, one of whom was unconscious. CPR was administered and EMT's were waiting at the marina, but we learned last night from the news that the unconscious victim couldn't be revived. We passed the marina just after the occupants of the boat were brought there. See "Garner man drowns at Carolina Beach inlet after boat capsizes".

Carolina Beach is an unmarked inlet reported in guidebooks as a small boat inlet to be used only with local knowledge. When strong tides run into opposing wind these inlets can build up dangerous breaking waves. Apparently this group tried to turn around in the inlet, which got them broadside to the waves and flipped over their boat. It was reported that no one on the boat was wearing a life jacket. 

Since leaving River Dunes we have spent nights at Swansboro, NC, Wrightsville Beach, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. We are now entering one of the most beautiful areas of the ICW where we will pass through the 29,000-acre Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Once we enter it, we will see mostly nothing but wilderness and wildlife, and a few other boats. I wrote about this area near Georgetown on our last pass through here in "My Ancestral Home"

The Wildlife Refuge has an ultimate "Acquisition Boundary" of some 55,000 acres, and there is an ongoing land purchase program within the boundary for interested sellers. Some of the current area is owned while other parts are managed as a part of conservation easements and long-term leases. The history of the area is fascinating and can be read about on the Refuge website.

We are having a great trip and continue to enjoy spectacular weather, even though it was not cooperative when we had opportunities to go to sea. We plan to get the boat to the Charleston area by tomorrow night where we will leave it and drive back home to Richmond Hill.


We arrived in Georgetown at 2:45 this afternoon. The fuel price here seemed quite reasonable at $1.75 per gallon. I have seen lower prices in a few places but also I have seen prices of $3.35 a gallon, nearly double the price here. I still had about 500 gallons onboard after last fueling in January, and could have waited until the new year to refuel, just because I could. Nevertheless, I decided to take advantage of our early arrival and fill the tanks. We took on 1,240 gallons. Having run for 251 hours and 1,565 miles since our last fueling, this meant we had averaged burning 4.9 gallons per hour at an average speed of 6.23 knots. We are getting 1.26 nautical miles per gallon to move around our three-bedroom second home, including some heavy fuel use for the generator in hot weather. We'll see what fuel prices look like in about another year.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

South Again

We are in Swansboro, NC, a lovely small town with historic homes and (we hope) a good restaurant. I am accompanied by my friend Paul Hamilton, the "Bosun", who is on his third trip on Division Belle. I am glad to have the help and enjoying his good company.

The Bosun
We left home Tuesday morning on election day and made the seven-hour drive up to River Dunes near Oriental, NC. Wednesday was taken up with returning the rental car to New Bern about an hour away, getting our sewage tank pumped out and our water tanks filled, buying a few forgotten groceries, and various other tasks. We departed River Dunes this morning at 9 and arrived here at 4:30 this afternoon. It was an incredibly beautiful day and an uneventful trip.

We had an alternate plan to stop early today in Beaufort, NC and go to sea tomorrow for around a ten-hour trip to Wrightsville Beach. It probably would have worked, but we should be in Wrightsville Beach anyway tomorrow night with the path we chose.

We elected to travel in the waterway further today and continue inside tomorrow because of the weather. Don't get me wrong. The weather is beautiful. However, the forecasts for being at sea tomorrow were right at the margins of what I consider comfortable. I like seas of up to three feet but I get nervous when the forecast is four to five feet and the "period", or time between waves, gets shorter than a comfortable swell. It will probably be beautiful tomorrow at sea, but when you commit to a ten-hour day at sea with nowhere to stop short, it can turn into "a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day". And who wants that? Life is short.

So we traded a really short day today and a ten-hour day at sea tomorrow for two seven or eight-hour days in the waterway, ending at the same place tomorrow night.

We are at Casper's Marina in Swansboro and I asked both the dockhand and the owner where to have dinner with outdoor service. We got the same answer from both of them (a good sign) so we plan to walk a few blocks to "The Boro", which seems to be the favorite.

Tomorrow we will head further south on the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville Beach. We will keep you posted on our progress.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

On Division Belle with Belle

 Just checking in. I drove back up to North Carolina today to spend some time on the boat with our younger dog Belle Watling. Since our other dog is Rhett Butler, Belle is named for the Madame in Gone With the Wind who was Rhett's "friend". It is about a 6 1/2 hour drive to Oriental, NC from home, but with four stops to let Belle cavort it took nearly eight hours. I'm sharing a filet with Belle and will turn in early after the long drive.

I have a few projects to accomplish, but they are mostly an excuse to spend time on the boat. I brought Belle along to avoid leaving the Lovely Laura Lee with two dogs to care for. But also Belle appears to be the most adaptable to life on the boat, perhaps because she is younger. I just want to see how she will do. Tonight she is happily running in and out and around the decks checking things out. Her astroturf is out on the bow when business needs to be done, and she took to it right away on a previous trip.

I'll put some pictures of this lovely place in the "Photos" section of the blog over the next few days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

River Dunes

Log 21,858

Oriental, NC

We had just a hint of a cool morning yesterday after months of heat and humidity at home in Georgia. It was 67° degrees when I arose to prepare to get underway. In the coming week we are expecting even more of a drop in temperatures, which will be welcome.

We have arrived at our destination. It is a development centered around boating and sailing called River Dunes, close to Oriental, NC. It is a lovely spot with hundreds of boats tied up in a very protected harbor, but so far we have seen few people here. We had dinner in the clubhouse last night and only one other couple was there. It is very quiet.

Sunday, we ran up the Intracoastal Waterway from Myrtle Beach to Southport, NC. and then followed the Cape Fear River for several miles before leading through a land cut to Carolina Beach, where we spent Sunday night.  In Southport we passed the badly damaged Southport Marina. Hurricane Isaias hit the area August 4 and the Category One hurricane simply ripped all of the docks apart and piled up the boats on top of each other in the marina. The word in the area is that a dredging operation in the marina had sucked out too much mud around the pilings leaving them unable to support the docks in the wind. Now the damaged docks and boats have been cleared and it is simply an empty harbor.

Southport Marina after Hurricane Isaias

Southport Marina basin today with all of the damaged docks removed

Carolina Beach was a quick overnight Sunday night for us. The Lovely Laura Lee had purchased fresh crabmeat for us in Georgetown so we dined on crabcakes and salad.

We spent Monday night in Swansboro, NC, a quaint historic small town just south of Beaufort/Morehead City. We didn't get to see much of the town as we arrived late and left early, but we'll be back at some point. Yesterday we cruised mostly east crossing Bogue Sound, and then turned north at Morehead City to head up Adams Creek to the Neuse River. We arrived at our destination right at 4 pm.

We have had a great trip, but we are glad to now have a break from being on the go every day. We'll be here until next week, drive home for a couple of weeks, and head back up for more time in the area. I'll try to post a few pictures of this beautiful area.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

My Ancestral Home

 Log 21695

Myrtle Beach, SC

We spent last night in historic Georgetown, the third oldest city in South Carolina, located in Winyah Bay at the confluence of the Black, Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Sampit rivers. My great x 5 grandfather Thomas Jasper Samford was born in Virginia in 1758 and migrated to South Carolina, spending part of his life along the Great Pee Dee River (which doesn't sound appealing as a place to swim). He was the fourth generation of Samford's born in America dating back to James Thomas Samford who was born in England in 1624, but was married and died in Virginia. 

Born just 12 years after the American colonies declared independence, Thomas Jasper's son was named Thomas Jefferson Samford. He was born in what is described as "Marion District on Big Pee Dee". He migrated to Wilkinson County, Georgia where his son, my great x 3 grandfather William Flewellyn Samford, was born in 1817. William Flewellyn ultimately moved to Auburn, Alabama where he died in 1894. This series of migrations from England to Virginia, to South Carolina, to Georgia and ultimately to Auburn, Alabama explains how I became a member of the fifth generation in a row in my family to attend Auburn University, and is an example of what I would call evolutionary improvement.

We followed the Intracoastal Waterway past the mouth of the Great Pee Dee and through the Waccamaw River all day today from Georgetown to Myrtle Beach. We had an easy day cruising through beautiful remote territory. We have continued to look for opportunities to get back out into the ocean, but the weather has not cooperated whenever we had the chance. 

When last I wrote, we had anchored Wednesday night in Mosquito Creek. Thursday we made it to Isle of Palms outside Charleston where we had a great dinner outdoors on the deck at Coda del Pesce with our friend Dakota Willimon. Then Friday it was on to Georgetown and tonight here we are, planning a dinner of fresh shrimp from Georgetown on the aft deck. We have had light rain off and on for two days but it has been easy cruising. Tomorrow we should make it into North Carolina where we fully expect a dramatic change to cooler weather. We will keep you posted.

The Lovely Laura Lee and The Devine Dakota Willimon

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Heading to North Carolina

 Log 21552

Mosquito Creek off the Ashepoo River

It was raining hard when I awoke at 6:30 yesterday morning at Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head. The coastal forecast for the area had deteriorated badly overnight, and there were marine warnings posted for severe thunderstorms and possible waterspouts. We had to abandon our plan to run outside to Charleston and instead head up the Intracoastal Waterway. Given that, we didn't leave until around 10 am, planning to arrive at a few shallow spots at high tide.

Help getting through the shallow spots from our new forward-looking Sonar

We passed through Beaufort, SC at noon, survived one shallow area, and arrived at the Ashepoo River at around 3 pm. Rather than turning right to follow the ICW, we turned left up the Ashepoo to Mosquito Creek. We were hoping for dock space at B&B Seafood where they charge a flat $25 a night to dock and where fresh shrimp is available inside. Alas they had no space, and when we anchored nearby our dinghy wouldn't start. So no fresh shrimp for us last night. Our anchorage though was quite nice. There are a few houses nearby, but we were in a very peaceful spot for the night. The Lovely Laura Lee prepared lamb chops and we dined on the back deck overlooking the beautiful marsh at sunset.

Sunset view at dinner on the aft deck

We had departed Thunderbolt in Savannah Tuesday at noon, and the trip to Hilton Head was uneventful except for a wild ride when we went out the Tybee Roads ship channel with a strong thunderstorm ahead, and wind blowing into an outgoing tide. It was pretty rough for about an hour until we turned back in behind Hilton Head. 

Tuesday night we walked from our marina about 3/10's of a mile to the Old Fort Pub Restaurant. It was surprisingly good food served to us outdoors on a deck overlooking the water. A very nice night until around 8:30 when the mosquitoes came out in full force. 

We should be able to easily make it to Charleston today. It is a little foggy this morning with low clouds. It should become partly cloudy by mid-morning. We are bound for Oriental, NC on the Neuse River in what I call the "Inner Banks" area. We have reserved a slip there for a month at River Dunes, which looks like a good place to hang out for a while. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Steering by Stars and Satellites

My first boat was a 38-foot Californian that had nothing more than a magnetic compass for navigation. If I wanted to go offshore, particularly out of sight of land, navigation was by dead reckoning (deduced reckoning). This kind of navigation uses your speed, course and time from a known beginning point to figure out where you are. There are all kinds of adjustments needed for magnetic variation, your own compass's deviation, currents moving you one way or another, etc. Dead reckoning can be very precise, but was usually not so in my case. My navigation then involved cruising along the coast until I could see the inlet I was heading for. I would, for example, leave the pass in Orange Beach, Alabama and turn to a compass heading from the chart designed to lead me to the entrance to Pensacola Bay. Knowing my speed and holding a course manually, I knew when to begin looking around for the sea buoy to guide me into Pensacola. People sailed all over the world with this system, often carrying a sextant to determine their position from the stars or the sun, and sometimes calling passing ships to ask for a position report.

My second boat had a LORAN receiver to determine my latitude and longitude, a technology introduced during World War II that had been vastly improved with solid-state electronics. LORAN is short for Long Range Navigation and uses powerful low frequency ground transmitters to show your current position based on the time delay between LORAN signals from different locations. The system has been mostly decommissioned, but there are efforts to keep or revive it in some locations. With the LORAN, I could type in the latitude and longitude of where I was headed. Once I entered the waypoint, I would get a digital display showing the heading to follow, whether I was on the centerline of the course or not, when I would arrive, etc. My wife once said she should be jealous of my affair with "Loran Waypoint", the imagined mistress that I spent hours working with on the bridge of our boat. Cruising mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, I gradually programmed in a large number of saved waypoints. So if I was going from Appalachicola to Clearwater, Florida, it was simply a matter of calling up a saved waypoint or route. Checking today, I find that I still have in my Dropbox a spreadsheet of these waypoints, last modified in 1993, and called loran.xls.

Now, with sophisticated GPS chart plotters, everything has become ridiculously simple using a cursor or touch screen to enter a route and telling the autopilot to follow it. In fact, it can all be done using an app on an iPad, although my iPad is not connected to my autopilot. Whatever the technology improvements though, every system still uses latitude and longitude to pinpoint any position on the earth. The first such "geographic coordinate system" was developed in the third century B.C. and our navigation today is the result of improvements made over more than 2,000 years, including the discovery that the earth is not flat.

The first breakthroughs in ocean navigation came with the concept of latitude. Once it was realized that the earth is basically round, one could imagine being inside the center of the earth, where horizontally in every direction was the equator, which is zero degrees latitude. Using the angles from the equator up or down, every position on the planet has a latitude expressed as degrees, minutes, and seconds north or south from the equator. The north pole is 90 degrees north while the south pole is 90 degrees south. Distances were defined using each minute of latitude as one nautical mile. Traveling due north or south for 60 nautical miles you would move one degree of latitude north or south. Traveling at 10 knots means you are moving at 10 nautical miles per hour.

The easiest way to determine your latitude, in the northern hemisphere, is by measuring the angle of Polaris, the North Star, above the horizon. Since the North Star is always directly above the north pole, the angle of the star above the horizon measured with a sextant is always your latitude. Latitudes in the southern hemisphere can be determined using the "Southern Cross" constellation, and angles of the sun and other stars can also be used in either hemisphere. Instruments designed to measure such angles date back to the Roman Empire. Christopher Columbus primarily relied on dead reckoning to determine how far he had traveled, and he basically just went west. But he carried with him an "astrolabe" which he tried to use to figure his latitude. Measuring was difficult on a rolling ship, and he was not skilled, but when Columbus first spotted land in the Bahamas he was actually only 90 nautical miles south of the estimated position shown in his log, an error of 1.5 degrees of latitude. Because nautical distances are defined by latitude, it is easy to see that the distance from the equator to the North Pole is 5,400 nautical miles, or 60 nautical miles per degree times 90 degrees. I live around the 32 degree latitude, just over a third of the way from the equator to the north pole.

Determining longitude took far longer for man to successfully implement, because it required better clocks (marine chronometers) that were not developed until the 18th century. To make exact Greenwich Mean Time (now called Coordinated Universal Time) available for ships, the National Bureau of Standards in the U.S. established powerful short-wave radio transmitters in 1919 that can be heard around the world broadcasting the time. Station WWV (now in Fort Collins, Colorado) is the oldest continuously-operating radio station in the U.S. and perhaps the world. You can hear what it is transmitting and its announcements of each minute at any time on your nearest short-wave radio or by calling (303) 499-7111 where you can listen for about 2 1/2 minutes before it hangs up on you. As it sounds the tone for each minute, your mobile phone clock will magically roll over to the next minute as well.

 Longitude lines are not parallel like latitude lines. Instead, lines of longitude all meet at both the north and the south poles. These lines essentially just divide the earth into the 360-degree circle that it is. Determining longitude is an exercise in measuring time difference from a known reference point. In 1884, the International Meridian Conference was held with representatives from twenty-five nations. Most of them agreed to adopt the longitude of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England as the zero-reference line, and it gradually became the standard point of zero degrees longitude. The rotation of the earth causes the sun, from our vantage point, to march across our sky at a rate of 15 degrees of longitude per hour, crossing the entire 360 degrees of longitude every 24 hours.

So to determine longitude, if the sun is at its highest point of the day where I am located (noon my celestial time), and it is exactly 5 pm Greenwich Mean Time, I would know that I am at 75 degrees west longitude since noon where I am is five hours earlier than noon in Greenwich (five hours X 15 degrees = 75 degrees). Time zones, as we use them, cover large areas on either side of the real spot where the local time would be the same as the celestial time. Eastern Standard Time is centered on the 75 degree line that passes just outside of New York City. Where I am located in Georgia is part of the eastern time zone but our longitude is around 81 degrees west.

Given the technology of today, it is quite easy for a modern boater to have no idea what these numbers mean. A fisherman can simply look up or learn and save the location of reefs or sunken ships where fish can be found and "punch in the numbers" to take his boat out to the correct spot. The best local fishermen still closely guard their secret "numbers", but it is easy now for charter customers to simply pull out their phones to see where they are and save the location for future use. For boaters traveling from one place to another, as we do, the newest technologies allow you to simply touch in a single destination point and the entire route will be calculated and laid out in waypoints for you. It is similar to the turn-by-turn instructions that Google Maps or your car navigation system will give you.

So you would think the old-fashioned ways of navigating are no longer necessary, but last winter as I moved our boat through the Jacksonville, Florida area, there was a notice to mariners that military exercises might disrupt the GPS system for a period of several weeks. Sure enough, some boats reported that their position would suddenly jump to somewhere miles away, perhaps on land, and eventually go back to being correct. In fact, jamming or blocking GPS signals is widely used in certain parts of the world for security reasons. I spoke recently to one pilot for Gulfstream who delivered a jet to the middle east where he had to navigate in and out with GPS simply not working. His younger co-pilot had no idea how to do it. 

You would also think that sextants used for navigation would have gone by the wayside, but there are still sailors and other navigators who know and practice the art of celestial navigation, and modern sextants can easily be purchased online. I doubt it is a growing market. There is also a collector's market for some of the beautiful antique brass sextants. I have an older brass one that belonged to my dad. I carry it around on my boat just in case I ever get lost.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Improvements for Division Belle

I have tried to avoid discussing boat maintenance, as it is both endless and boring. I will mention a little of it at the end of this post. But improvements to the boat are exciting and fun, at least to me. So here is what has been going on over the last few weeks.

The electronics on this 14-year-old boat were dated when I bought her, but for budgetary reasons I decided to live with what I had for as long as possible. Much as I would love to take out most everything and put in two giant multi-function displays to give me a "glass cockpit", the old Raymarine radar works fine for my purposes. On the other hand, the two Furuno chart plotters (pilothouse and flying bridge) have given me trouble from the start. They often turn off for no reason and take several minutes to reboot. This has happened more than once while navigating a tricky passage. I have had backup apps on my iPad, but I'm now having both units replaced with Garmin plotters. While the new ones fit roughly into the same openings, the screens are much larger, mostly because they are touch screens and no room is taken up by buttons.

Electronics upgrade in progress
New plotter at right.

I realize it doesn't look like it from the photo above, but the work is almost done. The boat was hauled out of the water today to install the new depth transducer that should give me some pretty cool imagery of the ocean bottom beneath me and ahead. 

The new plotters involved installing a new network that allows all of the instruments to talk to one another, new depth and wind transducers, and various network translators that allow a few old instruments to talk to the new network. I'm also installing two new vhf radios that are an inexpensive but vital part of the electronics. Not only do I love gadgetry, but these additions will add both safety and convenience to routine travel.

I've also installed new LED light fixtures on the exterior decks. There are a total of 14 of these lights. I had been gradually replacing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, but they didn't last as long as advertised, and many of the fixtures were corroded or broken from 14 years in the elements. The new lights are slightly brighter, but still a soft light, and not as bright as they look in this photo. We can now see to get around the decks at night, and I think our curb appeal has been enhanced.
New deck lights

Finally, and not at all thrilling, I've had a new bow roller system installed to handle our anchor and chain. When I first bought the boat, it was agreed that the broker would order and properly install a new 154 lb. Rocna anchor. These anchors are known for good holding power and are easy to set because a large round semi-circle on top causes the anchor to roll over if it lands upside down on the bottom. The anchor was ordered but installed on the old rigging and just didn't fit right on the boat. This is my second try at correcting the situation, and involved installing a large roller assembly that hangs the anchor out over the water rather than letting it drop through an opening in the bow pulpit. You can likely see from the photo below that this gets the gigantic anchor out of the way where it can be likely work well, not scrape up the fiberglass, and be out of the way of the other anchor. We'll see how it goes, but we have had trouble with anchoring and stowing the anchor for two years, so I hope we got it right this time.
New anchor roller

As far as maintenance, a number of items simply broke while the boat was stuck in Bimini for four months. The water maker was clogged and had an air lock in the input line, the master stateroom air conditioner didn't work at all, the pilothouse air handler sounded like a bearing was going (which has now happened), and the bottom of the boat grew layers of grass that was pretty shocking to see when hauled out today.
A dirty bottom and growing grass

The sealer around the new transducer tube will cure overnight, and we will have the remainder of the bottom cleaned and some new zincs added before putting her back in the water tomorrow. Most of the remaining work should be completed this week if the new air handler arrives. So we are near the end and getting ready to play again on the boat.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Bumpers and Ropes

About three boats ago my good friend James Abele, with the late Hamlin Beatty, agreed to crew on a trip from the Tides Inn on the Chesapeake Bay to somewhere back in the south. James and I had been childhood friends but had not spent much time together since. On that trip, he became known as the "Perfect Deckhand", and we have spent many a good time together ever since, on boats and elsewhere.

On the first day of the trip south, I was at the helm as we left the dock and James was helping with the lines. After we got away, he asked me "Where do you store your bumpers and ropes?" I told him where to put them and politely said that the the proper terminology was "fenders and lines". Since that moment, he has consistently referred to fenders and lines as "bumpers and ropes", but only when he is talking to me. I should have known better than to correct him. He only says this to annoy me, but it has become a standing joke and no longer works.

On the current boat Division Belle, there was an abundance of fenders and lines on board when I got the boat. I noticed that every storage area was packed, but until yesterday I never pulled everything out to see what I had. We typically use only two fenders in normal docking but it turns out we had 10 fenders on board. For lines, I haven't even counted. We have them in all shapes, colors and sizes, with few of them matching.

I have purchased six matching black 3/4-inch lines for everyday uses, and I will keep a good supply of the older spares on board. As for fenders, I'm using a set of four white ones that appeared to be almost new when I bought the boat. I have dark blue washable covers for them. Another set of four badly worn black fenders have been moved to storage, and the remaining two oversized fenders will be deflated and stored on board for locks or difficult cement dock situations. I now have much more storage space for my bumpers and ropes.

Most importantly, the black dock lines and the white fenders with navy blue covers all match up nicely. There are many boaters who couldn't care less, but for me it is like wearing socks that don't match. And I think even Perfect Deckhand would be pleased that the bumpers and ropes are in such good order now.

I'm getting the engine annual servicing done this weekend and replacing a faulty fuel cooler that is leaking fuel into the exhaust water. Then I will take the boat back to the Hinckley yard next week to get the air conditioner fixed and the new anchor roller installed. Next will come an electronics chart-plotter upgrade and then we will be finally ready to use the boat again. day it will all be right.

Monday, August 3, 2020


The storm (at 11 am) is currently about 100 nautical miles to the southeast of us passing the Georgia-Florida border. It is moving to the north at about 11 knots (call it 13 mph). It is expected to pass due east of us this afternoon at least 75 nautical miles from our location. So far there has been cloudiness here and a few drops of rain. I expect we will get some showers and gusty wind in the next few hours.  We have just passed high tide here in the Ford Plantation marina. It was not above the normal high tide line but it will likely stay up and perhaps go slightly higher as winds push water up the river. We seem to have been very fortunate once again.

I did bring Division Belle back to Ford Saturday in preparation for the storm, but also because the boatyard is awaiting parts and not much was happening there with the boat. She still needs a thorough bath from her four-month quarantine in the Bahamas, and I have that scheduled for tomorrow. Single-handed, I had to await slack tide at about 1:30 pm to get away easily from the Hinckley Yard, and then idle all day to time my entrance into our marina close to high tide at about 8:30 in the evening. So I turned a four-hour trip into a seven-hour trip, but it was a beautiful day and an enjoyable ride.

I'm glad to get this storm past us. Here's hoping our good luck with the weather holds.