Friday, January 18, 2019

Live Firing

I am in Southport, North Carolina, the end of the current voyage. You can see the boat out at the end of the dock in a live feed here. My crew Paul Hamilton and Jim Trolinger headed home today.

Maintaining the strange Krispy Kreme hat
tradition started with my son in the Bahamas.
They have been great company and terrific contributors. Paul fixed the satellite TV and both helped figuring out several other items. Jim was chief cook while Paul was bottle washer. Both were excellent deckhands and we took turns on one-hour shifts at the helm every day. Since Paul is president of our POA and Jim of our club, I had an opportunity to tell them both how they need to run things. I think a good time was had by all, and these two will be gladly welcomed back if they want to help out on another trip. I will stay until tomorrow morning to get some work lined up with the Zimmerman Marine office here. 

This has been a "shakedown cruise" for the new boat. All went well, but we did have a few delays and heart-stopping moments. We found this stretch of waterway to have numerous areas where the depth in the center of the marked channel is too shallow to transit. We would watch the depth finder and slow to a crawl when it became 10 feet or less in our 6-foot draft boat. We softly ran aground three times over the last several days, but in each case we were able to back up and feel our way through.

Tuesday evening was spent at a boatyard near Morehead City where my trusty crew managed to put together various fittings so that we could empty sewage at the marina here that still has its pump out system up and running in the winter. We had about 100 statute miles to cover Wednesday and Thursday to get here, and we planned to cover about 2/3 of that distance on Wednesday to have a short day yesterday. I admit I am out of the habit of checking Notices to Mariners, so we were somewhat shocked at 1:00 pm when we came to an area of the  Intracoastal Waterway that was closed due to live firing exercises at Camp Lejeune, NC.
Checking by radio we found that the entire waterway and an area 15 miles out to sea was closed for the next three hours until 4 pm. There was nothing to do but drop an anchor and wait. Following the delay, we made it to Alligator River Marina, requiring us to travel 65 statute miles yesterday to reach our destination. We arrived here at around 3:30 pm.

I would have to say the strangest incident was when we were maneuvering waiting for the Wrightsville Beach bridge opening and the stern thruster stuck in the on condition, moving our stern to port and spinning us around in the narrow channel. Paul Hamilton was at the helm and remained calm and cool in the unexpected situation. I grabbed the stern thruster joy stick to wiggle it back and forth, and found we could stop it from moving us if the stick was held in the starboard position. The thruster circuit breaker did not turn off the problem but made it impossible to stop ourselves by holding the control, so it needed to remain turned on. Ultimately, we found a big red emergency shutoff button for the stern thruster that stopped the problem until we can get it fixed. I have no idea where the bow thruster shutoff is located, but you can bet I will locate it before casting off again.

So all in, it was a successful shakedown trip, and great fun with two good friends. My crew departed at 8:30 this morning, looking as scraggly as they did upon their arrival in Norfolk in sub-freezing temperatures. Thanks for the help guys, and safe travels.
The Division Belle crew is granted shore leave

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why are you guys starting so late?

My new crew members Jim Trolinger and Paul Hamilton reported for duty in Norfolk, Virginia on schedule Friday morning, January 11, 2019.We headed out early Saturday and stopped for fuel at Atlantic Yacht Basin, about eight miles down the Intracoastal Waterway and one of the least expensive diesel fuel stops on the east coast. As we slowly pumped 500 gallons aboard, the dockhand asked: "Why are you guys starting so late?"

The simple answer is that I had hoped to have the boat out of the shop and launched in November or early December, but it didn't happen until January 2. As a result, we have been fleeing winter weather as we creep south on the Intracoastal Waterway. Annapolis, where I started, had eight inches of snow that began Saturday and continued into Monday. I believe Norfolk even got a dusting after our departure. For us there was no snow, but it has certainly been windy and cold, and we had a good bit of rain Saturday night and Sunday. This morning it was around 32 degrees in Belhaven, North Carolina and we might have a few warmer days before a winter storm again reaches the east coast Sunday night. We have only seen two recreational boats moving in four days.

The cold has not really caused any issues running the boat, but most marinas have their water turned off for the freezing temperatures. We were able to fill up when the boat was launched but not elsewhere as we spent a few days in Herrington Harbor. In Norfolk the water was also on so we filled up Friday night. Since then there has been no water, but we have called ahead to make sure we can refill tonight near Morehead City.

My crew members have been great company and excellent hands. They are handling the lines and fenders well, helping to troubleshoot issues and fix things, and we are all rotating the helm duties during the day. We should make it to the twin cities of Beaufort/Morehead City, North Carolina by tonight and on to Southport at Cape Fear by Thursday.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Norfolk, Virginia

The lovely Laura Lee and I made it safely to Norfolk, Virginia Sunday after two long days of travel. I am still getting to know the boat and its equipment, but it gets better by the day. The trip was uneventful except for an adventurous effort at docking in high winds Saturday afternoon.

Sunday evening we were treated to a visit from our old friend Mollie Sawyer and her son Zachery. Mollie is just a sparkling personality, and we were only reminded how much we have missed her. She and her family are temporarily living in Norfolk while her husband Mark completes his final year before retiring from the Coast Guard.

For readers who do not know her, Mollie was director of fitness at The Ford Plantation until just over three years ago when Mark was reassigned from Savannah to Paducah, Kentucky. She created from scratch the outstanding fitness program at the Ford Sports Barn that continues to be maintained by her successor, John Lindsey. In the process, Mollie should get full credit for helping me turn around my own slovenly ways. While working out with her, riding a bike, and watching my diet, I was able to get in better shape, and not incidentally lose about 25 pounds. The weight mostly remains off today, not counting the little upward blip brought on by the holidays. It was great catching up, and we hope to see her again soon.

Laura Lee headed home Monday, leaving me to mess about with the boat while I await my crew members who arrive Friday. I have had plenty to do. Tomorrow and Thursday I will be provisioning for a week of cold travel, which of course requires grog rations for the crew.

Traveling by boat this time of year in Maryland and Virginia is made more difficult as marinas prepare for winter. We were unable to refill the fresh water tank before leaving Herrington Harbor because the marina water was shut down for winter. Our stop Saturday night in Reedville, Virginia also had no water, and in fact we never saw a single human being while we were there. We were fortunate to refill the water here in Norfolk, but I was told it too will be turned off tomorrow in anticipation of a low tomorrow night of 30 degrees and Thursday night of 27 degrees. It is time to get moving to the south. 

We'll be reporting in for those interested in our travels.  Stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Starting Home

This morning started out chilly and raining as we began our journey to bring Division Belle home to Georgia. But the weather had actually warmed in the last 24 hours. It was in the low 40's today compared to yesterday morning when it was around 30 degrees with icy spots on the docks. We departed from Herrington Harbor North Marina in Deale, MD at 7:15 am, and we are now underway in the Chesapeake Bay. We plan to stop at Reedville, VA this afternoon, about 2/3 of the way to Norfolk, our destination tomorrow.

I actually thought about turning back this morning, due to fog. Visibility was less than one mile and I am not an expert on the radar on this boat. However, we decided to run for awhile and the fog gradually lifted as we moved south. The weather is clearing now, but wind has picked up to 15 to 20 knots from the west, so it's a little bumpy in the bay. 

It seems a very long time since spending my first few nights on the boat in October. I have promised to avoid writing about maintenance and repairs because they are boring subjects -- but let's just say a lot has been done to the boat, including a shiny new paint job for the hull. The paint work and numerous other tasks were handled by Zimmerman Marine at their Herrington Harbor location. They did beautiful work and were a pleasure to work with.

The lovely Laura Lee and I drove a rental car from Savannah to Annapolis last weekend so that we could bring more "stuff" to the boat. We spent the New Year's holiday in Annapolis and the boat was launched on Wednesday, January 2. After a couple of days provisioning, and one brief sea trial, we are finally underway.

The plan is for Laura Lee to fly home from Norfolk and my friends Jim Trolinger and Paul Hamilton will join me there on January 11 for about a week to help bring Division Belle part of the way home to Georgia. It is the nature of traveling confined on a boat that we shall either be much better friends after the trip or not like each other at all. I predict the former. 

It is normal in a deep-draft seaworthy boat to want to get out in the ocean on delivery trips. There are few worries about shallow spots, it is not necessary to hand steer all day, and there is little traffic to dodge. The boat can be set on autopilot and it is a relaxing journey just keeping a lookout. But moving down the coast from Norfolk, Virginia into the Carolinas presents three significant obstacles to traveling offshore: Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear. Each of them juts out into the Atlantic and requires getting well offshore to go around. The outside trip also requires long legs with nowhere to take shelter if the winds and seas pick up. As a result, the inside route is preferable to most people, and it is shorter by about 50 nautical miles from Norfolk to Southport, NC, south of Cape Fear.

There are a few options that can be considered on the inside routes. Norfolk is Mile Zero of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and one can just follow it for the entire route, or if the weather is good, it shortens the route a bit to go outside from Morehead City to Wrightsville Beach and rejoin the waterway to Southport, just south of Cape Fear. At the beginning of the trip south, it is also possible to shave some distance by going outside by Virginia Beach and back into the sounds at Oregon Inlet, but the inlet is notorious for shifting shoals and shallow spots. Finally, from the Albemarle Sound, there is a shortcut across the sounds to rejoin the ICW in the Neuse River. If the weather is good, our route will be down the waterway from Norfolk to the Albemarle Sound, the shortcut across the Albemarle, Croatan, and Pamlico Sounds, and then rejoining the waterway at the Neuse River and down to Morehead City/Beaufort, NC. From there, weather permitting, it will be out in the ocean to Wrightsville Beach and then back inside to Southport. That would put us almost to South Carolina and close to home.

I have no idea how far we will get in a week, but the joy of a slow 8-knot boat is that it doesn't really matter. It's all about the journey, and we shall enjoy every minute of it.