Wednesday, June 29, 2016

27-Jun to 29-Jun: Overnight Run To Hilton Head

Hotel Alcazar Original Pool
We had a fun time yesterday (Sunday) during our 1-day weather delay; we went into old St. Augustine and did the tourista thing with Kathy – eating lunch at the historic Hotel Alcazar building (once home of the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, which now hosts the CafĂ© Alcazar restaurant and the Lightner Museum.)  We also did a lot of walking in the historic Lincolnville District, or put another way, Rick got conned into a geo-caching exercise with Kathy and Michelle.

From Pool to Restaurant
We slept late the next day, made final departure preparations and tossed off the lines around 1345 on Monday 27-Jun.  The exit via the St. Augustine inlet was straightforward and uneventful thanks to a high tide and very benign conditions on the outside…although it’s notable that charts do not depict the channel markers, as they get moved around a lot to accommodate the constant shoaling there.  In good visibility (daylight) it's fine, but otherwise the interval and size of the markers would be challenging to pick up. The channel also extends to nearly 2NM offshore before you can be sure you’re in deep enough water to make the turn north.

Harbor Town Lighthouse from the FB
Winds were light from the northeast, with seas running around 3 feet, but with comfortable intervals, initially around 8 seconds, then later in the day down to 4 seconds – it was similar to a smooth rocking chair ride.  Sky conditions were mostly “severe clear” – some widely scattered high cirrus clouds in the distance, with the radar and XM weather screens clear of precipitation along our track.  We ran sans generator but with an ambient temperature of 85F during the day, and around 80F after sunset, with the sea breeze we remained comfy underway.
Harbor Town Marina from the FB
As darkness fell Rick took the first night watch, manning the helm until 0200 (Tuesday), with continued good weather and sea conditions.  Moonrise wasn’t until 0145, so it was IMC for a good part of the night.  Chelle assumed the watch from 0230 to 0700, and then Rick took it from there into Hilton Head.  We approached from the east through the Savannah entry channel and then veered off to the north to enter Calibogue Sound, and while that area is subject to frequent shoaling and some interesting cross-currents, we maintained adequate depth and steerage throughout the approach (with some local advice), arriving Harbor Town Marina shortly after 1100, making for just under 22 hours of sortie time.
View of Ghost Rider from the Harbor
Town Lighthouse / Museum

 Then it was bath time – both for the boat and ourselves – followed by an afternoon of the usual boat chores and casual distractions.  We also hung out here again on Wednesday 29-Jun to explore the local area, and lunched on fresh grouper and shrimp before the TRWs moved in.

Exactly when we depart for Edisto will depend on when we can find a suitable weather window, and right now we're sandwiched between a nearby cold front and an upper level trough (which are occasionally triggering some severe cells) -- and the so-called experts can't seem to discern where they're going or when.  In cases like this it's best to wait until the next morning to see what's cooking out there.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

26-Jun: Weather Delay

Lousy Weather with More Coming
Well crap.  We awoke this morning surrounded by TRWs with more building on our planned route.  Apparently that cold front has more teeth than the forecasters originally thought.  So we’re staying here in St. Augustine another day.

We'll just relax today and head into town to enjoy the local area. There are worst places to be delayed...St. Augustine is the oldest established settlement in the U.S. and has plenty of history, entertainment and eateries to keep one enjoyably occupied.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

20-Jun to 25-Jun: Palm Beach to St. Augustine

On Monday 20-Jun we tossed off the lines and finally boogied out of Palm Beach, taking the “inside” route up the ICW, heading north once again in the general direction of St. Augustine, with interim layovers planned at Fort Pierce, Cape Canaveral and Ponce de Leon.  We had to deal with quite a few bridges on this initial leg, but nonetheless still made reasonably good time, arriving at Fort Pierce City Marina by 1530 after a 0900 departure from Old Port Cove.

Along the AICW
Negotiating the ICW in this part of Florida entails a lot of “hand flying” – you can’t just punch the auto-heading or nav function on the autopilot and hope to keep it between the beacons for very long….so it isn’t as relaxing as running on the outside.  Still, we got some good fly bridge time, and the few inlets that we got a look at as we passed them made it obvious that the inside route was the right move – the winds were cranking out the ENE @ 20K+ and the Atlantic was boiling at 7 to 9 feet.  While the boat can punch into those head seas with no problem, it isn’t comfortable for its occupants.  Likewise, running any of those inlets (in either direction) would have been dicey at best.
Fort Pierce City Marina

The boat ran well the entire leg, with just one burp from the port side stabilizer fin (cleared up on its own).  Entry to the Fort Pierce City Marina was uneventful in spite of the winds and a frisky current.  The marina is very nice, and the adjacent downtown area looks very appealing….we’ll need to spend more time here at some point in the future, perhaps on the return trip.  The new floating concrete docks that were added are superb, and although there had been reports of the new GCFI system causing breaker trips, we had no issues, even at the dock’s relatively low 110/220V output.  And their Wi-Fi signal was excellent.

Merritt Island Anchorage
We departed Fort Pierce on Tuesday 21-Jun but not until around 1000.  Since our plan was to spend the next night at anchor, we weren’t in any rush.  The breeze was still fairly stiff out of the northeast at around 13K, but certainly better than yesterday.  Seas were forecast at 4 to 6 feet, but we stuck with our plan for going up the inside.  It was a pleasant day with highs in the low to mid 80’s and relatively low humidity (58%) for Florida, so we spend the entire day on the fly bridge.

With a following current much of the way we made good time running between 7 and 8 knots, and dropped the anchor around 1730 just east of the ICW a few miles south of Cape Canaveral near Merritt Island.  It was well protected from the easterly wind and we had a relaxing night hanging on the hook.  Apart from still finicky air handlers (that eventually start working) from what we can tell, nothing else on the boat broke today.  Hoorah.

Canaveral in the Distance
On Wednesday 22-Jun we picked up the hook shortly after 0930 and continued motoring north towards our next planned anchorage In the Ponce Inlet area.  The ICW has a lot of twists and turns in this general area, but not too many bridges, and we managed to keep it between the beacons.  The water quality, though, was turbid, especially so in Mosquito Lagoon – the winds were kicking up a lot of bottom silt and it looked more like chocolate milk than sea water.

Once we got to the Ponce Inlet area we were challenged to find a usable anchorage….all options were either already full-up or not nearly deep or wide enough for our comfort zone.  We ended up continuing north for another two hours into the Daytona area only to find the same situation.  It was nearing 2000 hours and sunset, and we weren’t crazy about the idea of continuing towards St. Augustine in the dark in such narrow and skinny waterways.  So we launched a “Hail Mary” phone call to the after-hours number for Halifax Harbor Marina – and sure enough, they answered, gave us a great slip on the end of a floating concrete t-dock, and we got tucked in for the night just as the sun set.

The next morning (Thu, 23-Jun) we continued the trek north to St. Augustine.  Winds were calm, the ICW was absolutely glass smooth, and we were wishing for an inlet to get us back outside in the big water where Ghost Rider belongs.  Alas, there is no such option in this area, so we stayed with the inside route plan.  We negotiated openings with a few bridges along the way with no significant delays, but we were bucking currents occasionally – I think we got passed by a manatee and a sea turtle at one point.  
View of Conch House
Marina from Our Fly Bridge

However, as we neared the St. Augustine vicinity the current reversed sharply, and we had over a couple of knots on the tail.  Even with that helping push we just missed the Bridge of Lions opening at 1630 by 5 minutes and had to wait nearly another hour for the next one.  A cigar and some Brad Paisley music helped pass the loitering time. Nonetheless, we arrived without incident at Conch House Marina in St. Augustine and were docked up around 1800 hours.  It was low tide with a decent remnant current, and it was a bit of a squeeze in a tight fairway, but we pulled it off without bouncing off of anything.

We finished the day with an enjoyable visit from Kathy Clark, who along with hubby Bradley Rosenberg are here aboard their Nordhavn 72, Shear Madness.  Although Bradley was back home in Naples taking care of some family business, it was still good to meet up with more of the Nordy community and learn from them.

Shear Madness, a Gorgeous Nordhavn 72, Also
Moored at Conch House Marina
Friday the 24th was a fairly lazy day, a combination of taking some down time – bits of administrative stuff, plus Chelle and Kathy played golf – and catching up on some routine scheduled boat maintenance.  That included topping off the fresh water tank, replacing a faulty gauge on the electrical panel, playing with the inverter and battery monitor settings (still a work in progress), resetting some of the A/C air handlers to factory specs (hoping that addresses some of our intermittent cooling issues), and a few other minor things.  Apart from the stock market panic over the Brexit silliness, all in all it was a good day.
Kathy & Chelle, with Shear Madness
in the Background

 On Saturday (25-Jun) we enjoyed hosting another visitor, this time John Stanton, who classifies himself as a “Nordhavn Dreamer”, and drove from Gainesville to St. Augustine for a look at a N47, but mostly to glean some experiences from former-dreamers-turned-owners.  We had a good 3-hour discussion on the pros, cons and some “gotchas” to watch for, and we hope it was helpful for him in his upcoming pursuit of his own Nordhavn 47.  Chelle and Kathy also got in another round of golf - they must really like that game, the heat index was 102F here today!  To complete our final full day in St. Augustine we then had the pleasure of Kathy’s company for dinner.  If you ever visit here, check out the Blackfly restaurant ( - acoustics are lacking, but the food is really good.
Tomorrow we plan to depart St. Augustine and make an overnight run up to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina to hang out there for a couple of days before continuing on to Edisto Island to meet up with some friends.  The enroute weather forecast is reasonably good, with only a fairly weak cold front and some scattered showers to deal with along the way.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mid-June: Service Wrap-Up and Sea Trial

Stripped Bottom After Soda Blasting...Down
to the Gelcoat
We finally got all the players and parts aligned for the bottom painting over the past weekend / week….the soda blasting wrapped up after two days, then the layers of new paint started going on the hull – we went with two coats of barrier epoxy (Pettit Protect 4700), and then 2 coats of Pettit ablative (Hydro Eco), observing the dry / apply windows per the experts.  In other words, that all took 5+ days.  And we opportunistically decided to renew all the sacrificial (zinc) anodes while we were on the hard.

First Coat of Barrier Paint (Grey)...Second
Coat Was White
But while that was going on we kept working on the other punch list items (in spite of the heat…air conditioning doesn’t work when the boat is out of the water.  Geez, it was hot.)  That included upgrading some of our faucets, as well as replacing the Racor water sensor gauge which suddenly was glowing red, theoretically indicating there was water in the fuel at the bottom of the supply tank.  (Our fuel system design makes it easy to verify that – and there was no H2O in there.)
Getting Ready to Splash
One of the good things about being laid up in the boat yard is that we ran into our friend and mentor Captain Bernie Francis, who was there helping the new owner of a Nordhavn 78 learn his new boat (Ammonite) and also getting some repairs done there.  It was good to see Bernie again, and also meet another new Nordy owner, Kaj Liljebladh, who hails from Sweden.

We finally splashed the boat on Thursday (16-Jun) around noon (video here) and ran some sea trials enroute from the Cracker Boy yard to Old Port Cove Marina to verify all service work done to date.  Along the way we ran aground – twice – in the middle of the channel; it was low tide and stiff west winds were blowing water out, so that made for some skinny water in that northern part of Lake Worth.  The bottom was very soft sand, so we managed to wiggle loose each time with a hefty dose of backing down and some thruster pivots.  Not a good way to treat your new bottom paint.  To top it off along the way we also lost functionality in the starboard stabilizer fin.  Let’s say we’ve had better days.  But at least Ghost Rider also got a much needed bath after we docked up at Old Port Cove….being on jacks in a boat yard for 2 weeks results in an extremely dirty vessel.
Rebuilt Stuffing Box on the Wing Engine...
Who Would Have Guessed Such a Small
Thing Could Cause Such Grief?

It took an extra day to fine-tune the stuffing box adjustments on the wing engine – but we got good water flow and have conquered the shaft overheating issue (at last.)   And then we required yet another day to fix the stabilizer issue (new solenoid & potentiometer.)

Today is Father’s Day, and forecast to be another stormy day here in south Florida, so we’ve declared it a day of rest and pre-departure preps.  And watching the U.S. Open.  We’ve got a decent weather window starting tomorrow – well, at least in terms of reduced thunderstorm activity….the winds will be cranking offshore with seas at 7 to 9 feet, so we’re going to slog up the inside route via the ICW for a few days. 

Regardless, it will be good to get moving again.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Early June: Service & a Side Trip

The day after we arrived at Old Port Cove in Palm Beach, Rick changed the oil & oil filters on both the main engine and the generator as a part of our routine maintenance regimen (250 and 200 hour intervals respectively); that’s pretty straightforward stuff given the convenience of the Reverso oil drain pump, but between the two diesels they consumed 28 quarts of fresh 15W-40 engine oil.
Tivoli Looking Good @ OPC

The evening before we left Palm Beach for St. Louis we hooked up with Clayton and Deanna, owners of N50 Tivoli, who were docked next to us at OPC.  They were just wrapping up their own Yacht Tech punch list, and headed north towards Maine for the summer.  As always it was fun to meet other Nordy owners and learn from their experiences.

Danielle Wake Surfing Behind
Their Tige Boat
Nick Wake Surfing at Lake
 of the Ozarks
Our side trip to St. Louis was fabulous…a little golf and a lot of family time, including a weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks with Nick, Danielle & our three grand kids, all with excellent weather.  It actually felt a little odd taking a spin in a boat that could reach 40 MPH, and it was a blast watching them wake-surfing.  It was even more fun watching Danielle surfing with 4-year-old Grace tucked in between her legs.  (EDIT: here's a YouTube video link of that.)

But while we were away from Ghost Rider, and now having returned to Palm Beach, we’ve also been getting a lot of work done on the boat courtesy of James Knight’s gang at Yacht Tech.  We have a lengthy punch list, including:

·        R&R the wing engine’s stuffing box…after 8 months of mucking around with multiple adjustments in a vain effort to cool it down, in the end the boat had to be hauled out and the wing shaft pulled, engine lifted, followed by modification and repacking of the stuffing box.

·        Re-wire the engine room intake fans to the battery bus bar (vs. a single battery) and install a new inline 24V converter.

·        Repair / rewire the LinkPro battery monitor gauge & reconfigure for our 24V system.

·        Replace the raw water pump on the generator; it had an intermittent leak at the rear seal; it also turned out the impeller was starting to come apart, too, and we were careful to retrieve the missing chunks from the heat exchanger.

·        The slow transmission oil leak at the base of the dipstick turned out to be a worn out crush washer which was replaced.

·        We also decided to address some minor plumbing issues with the fresh water system (low pressure at a couple of faucets – replacing with new assemblies.)

·        Strip & repaint the bottom….the latest ablative coat was simply not adhering to the previous coats of bottom paint (see pics); bottom line (I suppose that’s a pun) is that bottom paint is a consumable that needs to be periodically replenished; the soda blasting, however, is an expensive procedure & hopefully never needed again.
Peeling Bottom Paint

Most of these items are getting knocked out efficiently, but as I write this the boat is still up on jacks in the boatyard for all the bottom paint work that needs to be done; getting all the players and supplies coordinated for that has been like herding cats.  Plus the weather is not cooperating – all this rainfall is not conducive to quality outdoor painting.  We are guessing at approximately a week’s delay as a result.  Even that may be optimistic, but a revised departure date of 18-Jun is the current plan.
Bagging the Bottom to Prep for
the Soda Blasting
The good news is that our great friends Bernie and Sylvia are located nearby in Jupiter, and have given us a place to crash as well as a car (a Jaguar, not bad for a free rental, eh?)  Their hospitality has been and remains amazing….although we may accidentally found out how long they can tolerate us.

In the interim I’m contemplating an addition to my “bucket list”….while we’ve made good progress with acquiring the right vessel and pursuing the desired adventures, am wondering if operating that vessel for at least a period of time without an open punch list might also be achievable.  Once in a while you have to howl at the moon and tilt at a windmill, right?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A More Interactive Tracking Map?

Ghost Rider's Track Summary
from 09-May to 26-May, 2016
While enjoying some family and "down time" in St. Louis, I started playing with the concept of a more interactive tracking map.  By downloading a KML format of our Spot track, and then uploading to Google's "My Maps", I came up with something that might be useful for summarizing our tracks over certain periods of time.

Click HERE for Ghost Rider's track summary from 09-May through 26-May, 2016.

You can click on any track point on the resulting map to see a date & time stamp associated with each position.