Friday, July 29, 2016

28-29 Jul: More from Chesapeake, Va. (Atlantic Yacht Basin)

We spent Thursday and Friday (28-29 Jul) comfortably docked up at AYB, mixing up re-provisioning excursions with several maintenance activities with and some fun socializing time.

Billy & Becky's Kady-Krogen 39 The Edge
The provisioning was made a whole lot more convenient when our new dockside neighbors, Billy and Becky Edge, loaned us their very nice (and turbocharged) Audi A6, which gave Chelle the ability to drive around and load up on all sorts of things.  That was a fairly important to-do, as we are planning some consecutive sorties that probably won’t allow much time for such things over the next two weeks.  (That is, once we get out of here…more about that further below.)
Kady-Krogen 39 The Edge Parked Immediately
in Front of
Ghost Rider
We also spent a very relaxing evening of back-to-back happy hours with Billy and Becky.  We started out on their extraordinarily clean 2004 Kadey-Krogen 39, (appropriately named The Edge) whose layout provides an astonishing amount of space for the boat’s size…its engine room actually provides more headroom than the KK48 does.  And then we walked one slip over to Ghost Rider to show them around our Nordy and imbibe in more happy hour treats.  They are good people and we thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Our New Steering Ram Cylinder
As for the maintenance….over the span of two days we got the leaky steering ram removed and the new one installed.  After topping off the system’s hydraulic fluid we spent considerable time bleeding the system, both with manual helm inputs from the upper and lower steering stations, and also using the autopilot for consecutive hard-over rudder movements from stop to stop.  Everything felt and looked good, although we’ll monitor and perform repeated testing over the next few days.  We had the old steering ram sent out for a rebuild since its leak was very slight and only requires a single seal to be replaced; it will be carried as a spare.

The AYB yard staff also arranged for a Cruisair A/C tech to visit us and review our recent cooling challenges – the conclusion was that the system was performing well once the pressure was goosed up, so now we have a few tips to utilize if it acts up again.  Given that the water temp is above 90, and the ambient air has been in the mid-90’s, with heat indices above 100F, and we’re now getting our chilled water loop down into the 40’s and that doesn’t give us much to complain about.

That Small Cylinder at the Middle and Bottom
of this Pic is the LPG Culprit
Then we spent considerable time troubleshooting our recent LPG failure.  And we determined that the Fireboy-Xintex brand solenoid – which opens a valve to let the LPG flow provided it does not detect a leak – was toast.  A multi-meter test of the solenoid revealed a bad circuit.  After manually soap-testing all the connections to verify we had no leaks, we bypassed that device (actually removed it), and afterwards the gas flow to the range and oven was great.  But it’s a safety issue running without that in the supply loop, so AYB issued a rush order for a replacement, which should arrive by Monday. 

And the Damned Thing Costs
Around $100
As an far we are impressed with the AYB techs -- James Taylor is the service manager, attentive and efficient; and his go-to tech on staff, Tim, is a quiet, patient and thorough individual.  At the conclusion of today's maintenance activities Tim also arranged for two (free) bicycles for us that he had just sitting in the shop shed. 

Since the weather forecast for Saturday through Monday calls for numerous storms anyway, as a cold front sags down from the north into our area, staying here a few more days isn’t such a bad thing.  But that will trigger the need to reexamine our routing to Boston and recalibrate our timeline, which we’ll now do with the extra time here at AYB over the weekend.
Some Potential Tropical Systems
Spooling Up
Lastly, today we signed up for AYB’s “hurricane club” – which for a small fee reserves us a spot here in a very protected harbor should a big blow head our way during this tropical storm season.  It’s notable that AYB is mostly a fresh water marina (brackish at worst) being over 40 miles up-river from Albemarle Sound to the south, and is isolated from the Chesapeake Bay to the north by a lock just a mile away.  It’s a good hurricane hole…provided we can get back here in time before any storm closes the gap on us.  We’ll need to keep a close watch on the tropics from now until November as east Atlantic activity is now starting to heat up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

24-27 Jul: Coinjock to Chesapeake, Va. (Atlantic Yacht Basin)

We spent an extra day (25-27-Jul) at Coinjock mainly waiting on several packages and mail to catch up with us.  We used the down day to relax and catch up on more administrative items, including reconfiguring Rick’s spare phone (which had to be factory reset before Google services, including Gmail, would function….great fun.)  And of course there are always things to do on or with the boat – getting water stains off the stainless brightwork and recharging the water softener took up much of the day (in 98 degree heat.)

ICW Between Coinjock and AYB
Our final batch of packages finally arrived late on the 26th, so after another quiet evening here, we pushed away from the dock at 0830 (with the hope of avoiding the forecasted afternoon TRWs) on 27-Jul and made the short 32 NM trek to the Atlantic Yacht Basin Marina (aka AYB).  And while technically that’s located in the city of Chesapeake, Va. (home to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge), it’s actually still about 15 miles south of the Chesapeake Bay, which was our original destination of this season’s voyaging.  So, after putting 1500 NM under the keel on this trip,  it represents progress.  As hot as it is here, we’re still noodling heading further north and coming back to the Chesapeake area when it cools down a bit on our journey back south.

Chelle & Ghost Rider at AYB
Other than the inconvenience of having to loiter for 30 minutes awaiting two bridge openings, the trip up the ICW to AYB was uneventful, and we docked up around 1400.  The forecast TRWs never materialized, but it was a freaking scorcher again.  Thus, when we plugged into shore power at AYB and discovered they only had 208V power (not enough smash for our 240V system, including the A/C) we were not happy campers.  But they were able to loan us a boost transformer that got us to the 220-225V range, a voltage we’ve run on before with no equipment damage, so hopefully our high-voltage appliances will hold up.  The A/C is cooling well at this point….so far so good.

Ghost Rider Tied Up at AYB
We chose AYB as a stop not based on its reputation as just an ‘OK’ marina (it, too, is in the middle of nowhere) but mainly because it is a reputed boat repair yard, and yes, we needed work done. Our central maintenance issue is a leaking steering ram – while very slight, that’s a critical piece of equipment and a single point of failure, thus not to be ignored….the boat is equipped with an emergency hand tiller, but that’s not a real-world experience for which anyone yearns.  We’ll have a new ram installed, and have the old one rebuilt to keep as an onboard spare.  We also had an LPG failure (the propane source for the gas cooking appliances, we’re hoping that’s simply a bad solenoid) as well as that cranky water maker that may need attention.
Good Fuel Prices at AYB...We'll Tank Up Here
Anyway, as soon as we were securely tied up, I gave James Taylor, the yard’s service manager, a call and minutes later he was at the boat, we reviewed the punch list, and we had a good service schedule worked out for the next couple of days.  And diesel fuel is only $1.85 a gallon here...I think we'll top off before heading further north.

N60 Blossom Stored at AYB
Our Nordy friends Martin and Stephanie are storing their N60, Blossom, here for the rest of the year while they take a boating break back home in California.  AYB is an excellent hurricane hole, with massive covered boat barns in a mostly fresh water cove on the backside of the marina….well protected from winds, with little to no tide or surge potential.  We're going to look into joining their hurricane club for this voyage, as it’s a centrally located place to which we can boogie should a big blow head this way during the current tropical storm season.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

22-23 Jul: From Oriental to Coinjock, NC

River Dunes Pool Bar
Friday (22-Jul) was a lazy day spent just hanging around the River Dunes Marina.  We knocked out some routine recurring maintenance chores and caught up on the news.  Phone calls were a challenge – our AT&T service occasionally registered less than one bar of reception, but more typically nothing at all.  However, the WiFi signal was excellent, and we actually got a decent number of TV stations using just the OTA antenna (no cable service here.)  That evening we dined at the marina’s Harbor Club restaurant, which is open only on weekends; the menu isn’t extensive but the service and food were excellent (we highly recommend the snowy grouper.)
River Dunes Cabanas and Pool

We cast off lines at 0900 on Saturday (23-Jul) and pointed Ghost Rider’s bow north again, this time aiming for the Deep Point anchorage about 65 NM away.  The ICW in this area is made up mostly of interconnected rivers (Neuse, Pungo, Pamlico and Alligator), and we had good depths with mostly wide horizontal clearances. What few bridges we encountered were of the fixed & tall variety.
Michelle & Ghost Rider at
River Dunes

The theme of remoteness continued for the entire day’s route, as did AT&T’s lack of cellular coverage, and we sighted only a handful of other boats along the way.  We had sunny skies and dry weather, but it was hot again (mid 90’s) and somewhat humid (60%), although a decent breeze provided some relief.  Even the water temperature actually hit 90F today.  So, as we recorded main engine stuffing box temps under 100F, Rick finally declared victory on that maintenance item.  Yay.
North Carolina ICW

We arrived at our anchorage as planned around 1830, set the hook in 10 feet of water, fired up the gennie and cranked up the A/C.  This isn’t a particularly well-protected anchorage, but there is so little boat traffic here and with the winds at only around 10K, it was smooth enough; it’s also roomy (although we were the only boat within miles) and provided good holding.  We also managed to get a weak but mostly usable 4G signal out of AT&T.
Sunset at Deep Point Anchorage

To wrap up a long but good day we enjoyed a cocktail and beautiful sunset on the fly bridge. We ate a late dinner but crashed early.

We pulled the anchor at 0930 on Sunday (24-Jul) and continued our northerly path up the ICW towards Coinjock, NC. Supposedly the name Coinjock is a Native American term for mulberries -- although they don't grow here.  Go figure.

It was another hot day (mid-90's) but nonetheless we ran sans genset, and as long as one stayed in the shade, a light breeze made it tolerable.  Although Rick still preferred to drive from the pilot house with a fan blowing on him.  Chelle piloted her shifts from the fly bridge, where, as she put it "there's a dragonfly party going on up here."  They were fairly numerous, and some looked large enough to be the state bird.  Despite their size they are, of course, harmless, unless you're a fly or a mosquito; so we didn't mind having them along for the ride today.
Coinjock Marina

Apart from having to dodge numerous crab trap pots in Albemarle Sound -- where we also re-entered cell phone civilization -- it was an uneventful and relatively short run up to Coinjock (about 7 hours covering 47 NM.)  We maneuvered Ghost Rider into an alongside tie at the Coinjock Marina just before 1630, after which we cranked up the A/C and then boat & crew all got much-needed showers.
Coinjock Marina & Restaurant

The marina is interesting -- it is literally right on the ICW, with just one long dock (1200 feet worth), very helpful staff, fuel dock, restaurant, very fast free WiFi, and yes, cable TV!

That evening we ate at their dockside restaurant, which historically has received rave reviews; they are known for their prime rib, so much so that they recommend you reserve one when you make your dinner reservation, else they may run out of the stuff before you get there.  We tried it...and we still prefer a filet mignon, or better yet, snowy grouper or mahi.
Scotch and a Birthday Cake !!
Lastly, Chelle insisted on adding a picture of the evening's final event (Rick is the writer, she is the executive editor) which was a somewhat reluctant 'celebration' of Rick's 64th birthday.  But gotta admit, the angel food cake with cream cheese and fudge topping was pretty damned good.

We're going to spend another day or two here, mostly dependent on when some needed parts and supplies arrive.  After that, next stop is Atlantic Yacht Basin (AYB) in Chesapeake, Va.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

17-21 Jul: Cape Lookout, Then On to Oriental, NC

During our stay at Cape Lookout from Sunday (17-Jul) until early Thursday (21-Jul) we hung comfortably on the hook and enjoyed an absolutely beautiful anchorage – it’s a big bay with room for many more boats than were there, with deep, clear water, and is protected on all sides.  The anchor set firmly in the soft mud, which was proven by a pretty big blow on Tuesday when another line of TRWs blew through with wind gusts above 30K.

Cape Lookout Anchorage
Of course initially we spent time tending to our recurring theme of boat maintenance – adding a third packing ring to the main shaft’s stuffing box, patching up a cracked bleeder valve on the water maker, and investigating an apparent leak in the steering ram.  Michelle also spent quite a bit of time mission planning the next few legs of the journey north…we decided to head to the inside ICW route for a few days for three reasons:  first, there aren’t many inlets, ports or anchorages between here and the Chesapeake that would be usable for us; secondly, if some of the new boat issues arose again we wanted to be able to reach a decent marina within a day’s cruise; and third, with our water maker issues we needed to find a marina to top off our fresh water tank which was getting uncomfortably low after 6 days of use.  We also ordered our next round of “needed stuff” from Amazon (as well as some water maker parts) to be delivered to one of our next marina stops.
Cape Lookout Anchorage...It's an Absolutely
Gorgeous Place to Hang

Rick also spent some time reviewing the historical weather forecasts for the previous several days – mainly to see if we had missed some important clues about the nasty weather we ended up encountering on the second night. In retrospect, the first day’s forecast was pretty accurate, with storms staying inland over South Carolina as predicted; what we missed was an upper level trough hanging out in North Carolina that pushed a wave of nasty moisture-laden energy out to sea.  We didn’t recall whether PredictWind (our weather routing service) had noted that, so we’ll need to be careful to check more than one source in the future, especially on a multi-day voyage.  (As some wise soul once said: “Experience is a harsh teacher: She gives the test first and then teaches the lesson later.”)
Ghost Rider Hanging on the Hook at
Cape Lookout, NC

After all that we finally got around to launching the dinghy (mucking around with carb settings again) and then exploring the area.  The shorelines surrounding the bay here are part of the U.S. park system’s national seashore program (link HERE), located at the southern end of the Outer Banks, all lined with sandy beaches, and are largely uninhabited – unless you count the seabirds, fish, and the 130 or so wild horses that call Shackelford Island home.  We cruised the shoreline there at the northeast border of the bay looking for the ponies for a while, but no joy.
Another USCG Encounter....the Coasties
Stayed With Us Through the Night
We also had another close-up Coast Guard siting, thinking: are they following us around?  The cutter Beluga entered the harbor as we were returning in the dinghy for a lunch stop back aboard Ghost Rider.  They tied up to a marker light just 150 meters from us, and we were waiting for them to launch their boarding craft for another visit.  Instead they just hung out there, conducted some sort of military ceremony on the fore deck, and then at the end of their duty day, stripped the uniforms and went swimming.  They were still moored there the next morning.  Good for them.

Cape Lookout Light House
After lunch we took the dinghy over to the eastern side of the bay to explore the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.  On that mini sortie Rick somehow managed to get water into the SIM card slot of his cell phone, and upon return to Ghost Rider discovered it had nada for network connectivity.  Sigh.  Fortunately we carried a spare, and a swap of SIM cards revealed the card itself was still good.  Now the next project is to restore and/or update all the apps on the spare phone.

We called it quits early in the evening, recovered the dinghy to its perch on the boat deck, got a head start on engine room checks for the next morning’s departure, and then fired up the genset for some cool air and a test of the water maker bleed valve patch….which surprisingly worked.  But the unit still threw a high pressure alarm tantrum after a few minutes, so more to research there.

River Dunes Marina
On Thursday (21-Jul) we pulled up the anchor at 0930 and headed inland via the ICW for the short (40 NM) run up to River Dunes Marina near Oriental, NC.  The weather was perfect all day, so we ran the boat from the fly bridge for much of the voyage.  The boat performed well, although Rick continued to make adjustments to the main shaft’s stuffing box after inserting a 3rd packing ring earlier in the week.  Damned thing is finicky…although today we had a max temp reading of 113F at WOT, which in 89 degree water is actually pretty good.  (Ambient water temp +30F is the bogey.)

River Dunes Marina
We watched the steering ram very carefully today as well; it does have a very small and intermittent “scatter leak”, which one can only detect by putting a white diaper below it, and observing it over several hours of use.  But while very slight, that’s an important piece of equipment, so we may seek service / replacement once we get to one of the good boatyards in Virginia.

We have not had a chance yet to look around River Dunes Marina yet, but our first impression is it’s the classiest marina we’ve ever seen in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  We’re giving ourselves another day here to explore it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

10-17 Jul: More of Charleston, Then on to Cape Lookout

Charleston Charm
Sunday (10-Jul) was another sizzler, with temps in the mid 90’s and a heat index north of 100F, but breezy and mostly sunny, as the few TRWs stayed to the north of us.  The first part of the day was spent tending to administrative items, and then a “routine” check of all 13 batteries on the boat.  That’s mostly a visual inspection and checking the integrity of the cable connections, but also involves taking manual multi-meter voltage readings of each batt….sounds simple, but access to the eight that are located in the Laz requires some twisted “boat yoga” positions….and long arms.  Everything checked out within specs (all batts were between 12.79V and 12.91V and all within .2V within the same bank), but am thankful that’s no more frequent than a quarterly check.

More of Same
 That afternoon we took the shuttle across the big bridge into downtown Charleston and spent a few hours touring this charming city.  It features well-preserved antebellum structures, cobblestone streets, large red and white crepe myrtles, open market spaces, excellent restaurants, and a laid back southern charm that exudes a welcoming friendliness.  We started with a Pedicab tour of the southernmost part of town, aka the “old city” at the tip of the peninsula, bracketed by the Ashley and Cooper rivers, which features beautifully preserved historic homes (Rainbow Row), Battery Park (a civil war defensive installation, now a peaceful city park), and White Point Gardens overlooking the harbor entrance and Fort Sumter.  We also then walked the entire length of the City Market which spans several city blocks.  And there is so much more here to see, so we are planning another jaunt across the river this week.
Charleston Market

In the evening we Ubered over to one of the local Shem Creek restaurants near the marina, called “Finz”….definitely not fancy, essentially a bar surrounded by a few tables, but featuring fresh seafood, good service and reasonable prices.

On Monday and Tuesday (11 & 12-Jul) we mixed it up each day….Chelle used the bike to go touring and shopping, we got the black tank pumped out, Rick made several stuffing box adjustments, and we finally launched the dinghy again.  The latter was mostly to test drive the new spark plugs, make some idle adjustments to the carbs (good result) and troubleshoot the mid-range bogging (still present, but below or above that RPM range it runs great.)  More effort required there.  We had fun socializing with our new boat buddies with another happy hour on the fly bridge and of course we watched the MLB All Star game so Rick could get his sports fix.

The Haunted City Jail
Wed (13-Jul) was yet another scorcher, but nonetheless Michelle made a big provisioning run into town, a task made much more convenient with Mercedes generously providing chauffeur duties.  While they tended to that, Rick continued the research and troubleshooting of the boat’s air conditioning system, with lots of help from a local and experienced captain, as well as phone-coaching from one of the nearby Cruisair service shops.  Later in the day we were pleasantly surprised with a drive-by visit by Carol and Bill Sanford, former owners of N47-26 Let’s Dance…yet another Nordy owner encounter that provided even more insights and advice.

Jail Interior
That evening we took another break from boat duties and taxied back over to Charleston proper to tour the Old City Jail, reportedly one of the most haunted structures in all of SC.  We figured with a boat name like Ghost Rider we’d be treated to an apparition or two, alas we had no such luck.  But that place does have a rather creepy atmosphere, mostly due to its rather morbid history.  After that we treated ourselves to a dinner out at the upscale High Cotton restaurant in downtown Charleston – good food, drinks & service, highly recommended.

For Thu (14-Jul) the day’s plan included more messing around with the carbs on the dinghy’s  OB motor….but (surprise!) A/C problems got in the way again.  Cleaning the strainer basket (which looked like it was sitting in a pile of South Carolina pluff mud) and its Groco container introduced air into the system causing overpressure alarms at the chillers.  It wasn’t a difficult fix (bleeding the air from the seawater pump / circuit), but it took Rick a while to figure out that was the problem.

We also finalized our mission planning for the 36 hour sortie up to Cape Lookout, and after that Rick biked into town for a much-needed haircut.  Later we also began tripping shore power circuit breakers – the power pedestals at this marina aren’t the best – so we ended up running a second 50 amp power cord, and that solved that issue.  That evening we hosted another happy hour with boat neighbors Ron & Mercedes, had a light onboard dinner, and called it a day.

Chelle Hauling Golf Clubs
on Her Rental Bike
Fri (15-Jul) was a sleep-late day given that we were planning two consecutive overnighters, but Michelle still got a round a golf in while Rick futzed around the boat and made final departure preps and weather checks.

The wind was kicking up at around 15K and TRWs were popping inland, but we departed Charleston @ 1800 at a slack (high tide) current without incident. And then at 1830 we got boarded by the Coast Guard.  It had been over a year since out last boarding so I guess we were due.  They were very courteous as well as thorough – checking all paperwork, life vests, flares, placards, through-hull positions, etc.  The Coasties complimented us on having everything in order and departed after about 30 minutes.

Boarded by the Coasties
After that we were hoping for an uneventful night sortie….but no deal.  The main engine stuffing box was getting warm again, so Rick spent more time in the engine room adjusting that.  It seems to require a LOT of water flow to get acceptable temps, but we’re thinking that the new packing is still “settling in” and we may be mucking with it for a while.

We Also Got Boarded by Some
Small Baitfish During Some Lumpy Seas
At about the same time the starboard stabilizer fin went wonky…going into an over-travel alarm state.  The seas were running anywhere from 3 to 6 feet quartering on the beam, so to make less rolly conditions while we performed the troubleshooting, we made a big heading change off course to put the bow into the waves – it’s easier to play around with parameter settings on the TRAC’s small screen with a pitching motion vs. that sideways roller coaster.  We got a workaround sorted out after about 30 or so minutes, then turned the boat back to our planned course.

After that we settled in for the first night, and it was wonderfully boring.  Chelle finally got some shuteye as Rick took the first long watch up until 0500.  Moonrise was early and at 90% illumination it made for good night time visibility.  TRWs continued to pop inland, and a few developed over the waters near us, but we were able to keep a safe distance with a few jogs here and there. 

As the clock rolled over into Sat (16-Jul) we again took some detours off the planned route and throttled back to 1500 RPM for much of the night, while still trying to stay at 40% load on the big diesel – we had a tailwind and current that was pushing us a little too quickly and we didn’t want to hit our Cape Lookout anchorage before daylight on the 2nd day.  (As it turned out, we did not need any of those maneuvers to arrive late – read on.)

We Turned Away Just in Time
At daylight we had some high clouds and a steady southwest breeze at 15K, and the TRWs kept their distance through the day until early evening, when a small but electrically charged cell approached us from our six o’clock….when it got within 8 miles we took a hard left & throttled up enough to get out of its way.

After dinner and sunset we settled in again for a second night of cruising. We had some high clouds but the moonlight again provided decent night visibility. But it was hot and humid, and we were a bit tired, so we fired up the genset and the air conditioning for the night…which was refreshing and made for good sleeping conditions.  For the first half of the night we ran a course in between two storm tracks off to our east and west….while the steering currents at 10,000 feet were mostly as predicted with a northeast flow, the landside storms were still closing in at a pretty good clip (25+ mph) and with an increasing intensity.  The landlubbers to our west from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort were getting lit up pretty good.
Worsening Weather

In the wee hours of Sun (17-Jul) as Chelle was getting some sleep in preparation for her upcoming watch, that line of storms to the west (which according to our satellite XM radar repeater extended from Savannah all the way to New Jersey) picked up more steam and closed on us quickly, midway between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout.  We took up an evasive course due east and avoided those, then about that same time new storms started popping to the east and south  At this point the storm cells were forming and moving so quickly that the time-delay XM radar repeater was almost useless, but our Furuno open array radar was absolute gold.  

Wx Worsening...It Got Much Moreso After This Shot
But Got Too Busy to Take More Shots
We spent over three hours zigging, zagging, speeding up, slowing down, and also cursing a bit when we occasionally slammed into a big wave.  While we had a few close brushes with some of the cells with some brief downpours, we managed to avoid most of them, albeit not by much.  After a few hours of that nonsense we found a gap we could squeeze through heading back to the east, and we tucked Ghost Rider in behind the final line of storms as the last of them sped away to the northeast.  Overall, I guess it was a good refresher in vector geometry.  In the process we were also treated to a blindingly good light show as good as any July 4th celebration….but I’d prefer not to do this again.

If you look at our recorded track (click HERE), almost any departure from a straight line is due to storm avoidance measures.
Anchorage at Cape Lookout

The last four hours of the trip were mercifully quiet and relatively calm, and we dropped the hook in Cape Lookout’s beautiful and protected anchorage just after 1000, about 4 hours later than planned.  After the usual cleanup (on the boat and ourselves) it was nap time.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

05-Jul to 09-Jul: Edisto to Charleston, SC

Departing Simmons' Marina
After five wonderful days of taking advantage of Paul & DD’s outstanding hospitality, it was time to move on to our next destination, Charleston, SC.  We planned our departure for 0900 at a high tide and slowly diminishing current and took Ghost Rider back down-river towards the open waters of the Atlantic, and the relatively short hop to Charleston Harbor Marina, 40 nautical miles to the north. 

At around 1000 our trip log reached the 1,000 NM mark for our first 2 months of this overall planned journey.  In total, according to our Nobeltec voyaging logs, we now have put a total of 2,361 nautical miles under the keel (and over 600 hours on the main engine) since last October when we first started actively cruising on Ghost Rider.
Chugging Down the River
Towards the Atlantic
While general weather was pleasant enough – clear skies, no TRWs on the scopes for the entire route – it was hot, humid, windy and lumpy out there on this day.  We had 15K winds out of the south and mostly following seas at 3 to 5 feet for most of the sortie, then as we got near Charleston that increased to +20K and 4 to 6 foot seas.  It was sloppy, although the boat handled the conditions well enough.  The banging and clanking in the galley cabinets was somewhat annoying, but as far as we know nothing broke or spilled out of those.  In the Charleston entry channel we did take a bigger broadside wave on the port side that sprayed up to the pilot house level and also spilled a considerable amount of sea water into the amidships stateroom (our sleeping quarters....oops, we left that portal open), providing a significant cleanup opportunity.

Fort Sumter from the Charleston
Entry Channel
Unfortunately we also experienced more mechanical issues to be addressed whilst in Charleston – the main engine’s stuffing box got overly warm, the port side stabilizer fin failed in a fully deflected down position (that made steerage interesting), and once again it took us 2 hours to get the air conditioning system to function after arrival.  Rick spent entirely too much time in a 110F degree engine room for the second half of the trip troubleshooting stuff.  Is there an echo going on here?  We seem to be in a groove, but the wrong kind – I think it’s called a rut.

View of Yorktown from Our Fly Bridge 
At any rate, Charleston Harbor Marina is a nice place – it’s big (459 slips and 17,000 lineal feet of dock) – located up-channel on the Cooper River on Patriot’s Point.  The currents (and lately the wind) run strong here, and as one wise person put it in an Active Captain post, docking here is a varsity level sport.  We pulled it off without banging into anything, but just barely, and mostly because they gave us a really big slip.  There’s no cable TV and the wireless signals come and go, but next door is a big maritime museum, including the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier as well as the USS Laffey destroyer, a submarine, and a Medal of Honor museum.  And some of the best restaurants in the country are in the area.  As soon as we get our key maintenance issues sorted out, we'll be spending time exploring this area, and are thinking of staying more than a week now.

CHM in the Foreground, with the
Yorktown in the Background
Wednesday (06-Jul) was a down day – we slept late, handled some minor routine maintenance chores, lined up the needed service calls, and then socialized with some new friends dockside.  Michelle also made good use of the loaner bicycle, riding several difficult miles over the bridge to a nearby ACR shop to drop off one of our EPIRB devices to have a new battery installed.

Thursday morning (07-Jul) was spent troubleshooting (and actually fixing!) the port side stabilizer.  Rick spent time on the phone with an ABT Trac technician – Steve Owens, who is simply outstanding – and he talked us through troubleshooting and parameter changes to the system.  Essentially we were able to trick the port side servo valve into working once again by mucking with its polarity setting.  Steve also advised us on some other system parameter changes that should result in better performance and fewer issues going forward.  That all needs to be sea trialed, but at this point we appear to have a functional port stab fin once again.  This is the second time ABT has helped us resolve a problem….their expertise and service ethic are flat out exceptional.

The Yorktown and the Laffey Closer Up
On Thursday afternoon we got a local marina tech to come aboard and help us pull apart the main engine’s stuffing box and replace the packing material (it’s always good to have an expert guide you on how to do it the first time around.)  That should address the overheating issue, although that, too, needs to be sea trialed.  It’s pretty typical for new packing to require multiple adjustments while underway.

The Submarine Clagamore
in the Foreground    
Friday (08-Jul) was a hot day, with temps reaching over 100F, but Rick was finally able to get off the boat for a while, and so we spent the afternoon touring the nearby naval museum assets – the submarine Clamagore and the carrier Yorktown, as well as the Medal of Honor museum.  As you might expect, the aircraft carrier is quite large, hosting 22 aircraft in its hangars and on its flight deck, from the vintage warbirds of WWII to today’s F/A-18 Hornet.  The MOH museum is both an enthralling and humbling experience…as well as emotional.  If you’re ever in this area it’s worth a visit.  That evening we enjoyed happy hour(s) aboard our live-aboard neighbors’ Ron & Mercedes gorgeous sailboat Samana, a good way to end a day that didn’t include boat maintenance.
Mercedes and Chelle
Popping Shrimp Heads
Saturday (09-Jul) was another relaxing day, starting with a visit by more new friends, Kevin and Tiffany Taylor, and their son Lance, who were visiting Charleston (from Dublin, GA.)  They wanted a closer look at a Nordhavn as they assess their future boating options, and it was fun to provide the tour and discuss all the pros and cons.  A brief line of storms blew through around mid-day, and then again late afternoon, but honestly the cloud cover, cooler breeze and rainfall provided a welcome if brief break from the heat.  In between we went shrimping….or at least made a visit to Shem Creek local Tommy Edwards, aka the “shrimp pimp”, from whom we bought 10 pounds of the freshly caught crustaceans….for just $20.  Gotta love that.  We hosted a late social gathering on the fly bridge following a great (fresh shrimp) dinner with some of our new dockside friends, and finally called it a day.

That's it for this week's update....more to come from Charleston in the next week or so.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

30-Jun to 04-Jul: Up to Edisto, SC

Chased by Weather
The weather forecast was still unsettled when we awoke on Thursday, 30-Jun, but it looked good enough to make the run north to Edisto.  But first we stopped at the Harbor Town fuel dock to take on 500 gallons of diesel.  By the time we got that done and got underway it was 1000.  We plowed the first 10 miles or so on the inside behind Hilton Head Island, then exited to the Atlantic through Port Royal Sound. 
Approaching Edisto Island
Seas were tame at around 2 to 3 feet with light winds out of the southeast, and we were pleased with our new autopilot settings – cranking up the counter-rudder settings on the Simrad made a significant different in Ghost Rider’s tracking with following seas and currents.  The weather cooperated initially, but by mid-afternoon the TRWs started popping over the mainland to our southwest and started moving our way.  Tracking their movement via radar and our XM weather satellite display told us they’d likely catch us before we got to Edisto….so we bumped up the throttle and took some distance off the route by shortcutting a few turn points into shallower water, but still deep enough for our 6 foot draft.  We endured a light shower as we negotiated the final few miles of the Edisto River and St. Pierre Creek, but managed to avoid the really nasty stuff.
Docked Up -- in the Marshes According
to the Furuno Chartplotter

We had bypassed the Edisto Island Marina – they told us they were full up for the next 2 months – and threaded our way about 5 miles up river to Paul & D.D.’s place….we are pretty sure the locals don’t typically see Nordhavns motoring or docking up in this area, but thankfully the depths (if you know what side of the river to cheat towards) are excellent, especially at high tide (7+ feet this time of year.)  The charts aren’t particularly accurate up this way, either….it’s strictly a visual approach.  But we had plenty of water and room to tie up at Paul’s place. 
Paul's & DD's Place in Edisto, SC
Once again we experienced amazing hospitality from our friends....Paul & DD's place is remote but absolutely huge and quite luxurious.  Chelle and I had an entire upstairs suite to ourselves, and the food and drink was reminiscent of a 5 star resort.  A couple of days after we arrived we were also joined by our good friends from Atlanta -- Dale, Cal and Kara -- and we had a fantastic reunion....while also eating and drinking way too much.
Ghost Rider Docked at Paul's
Place in Edisto, SC, at High Tide

Paul took us on a tour of the local rivers and low country in his 20 foot skiff, and from what we saw of the nearby ICW, we were easily convinced that the best route to Charleston is definitely on the outside. But this area is both peaceful and beautiful, with plenty of wildlife, including lots of dolphins and acrobatic sturgeon.

More pics of the journey and local area are below.

We'll likely stay here a couple more days -- or until they kick us out -- and then make the short one day hop up to Charleston, where we'll likely hang out for a week or so.  
Our Track from Hilton Head to Edisto
Our Path Up River to Paul's Place
Edisto Marina...About 5 Miles Down River
Big Bay Creek Behind Edisto Island
Pretty Odd to See a Nordy Docked Up Here
Another Shot at High Tide 
And at Low Tide

Michelle and Paul on the Skiff
Social Time on the Dock
And More of That
Never Forget