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.


  1. 55 feet?! Wow! That's an impressive change. Glad it works in your favor. Somewhere, someone is wondering why the heck their tide levels have changed so much. Glad you fixed your autopilot issues, too. Wishing a wonderful holiday season to both of you!

  2. Great news on the fluxgate problem. That 55' depth is jaw-dropping; I'm guessing there are no charts correct any longer in that area.


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