Wednesday, August 10, 2016

06-Aug to 08-Aug: From Pax River to Delaware Bay

Southern Star Leading the Way
On Saturday the 6th of August we pulled up the hook and departed the Patuxent River anchorage around 1000, continuing our journey up the Chesapeake, once again in formation with Southern Star. Our destination was originally a marina at Rock Hall, Maryland, on the east side of the Chesapeake, but we decided to divert to the west side of the bay and drop the hook again, this time at the Magothy River anchorage, just north of Annapolis.

Weaving Through the Weather
We got lucky with the weather, as a cold front dropped into our area from the northeast, but we somehow managed to stay in between the TRWs that it triggered.

We arrived at the Magothy River just before 1800, but had to take two shots at getting the anchor to set….on the first drop we fouled on a nasty collection of shells, trashed out ropes, and some other unrecognizable detritus, but the second drop found good soft mud and held well.  Jo and Robbie motored over to Ghost Rider in their dinghy and we enjoyed another happy hour together, as well as a spaghetti dinner.  We have thoroughly enjoyed their company.
Ghost Rider at the Magothy  River Anchorage...
Pic Courtesy of Robbie's Drone
Reluctantly we parted ways with Southern Star on Sunday morning (07-Aug) – they were heading to Baltimore to meet friends and family there, and we were making tracks further north and east in the general direction of Philadelphia.  As we were making our departure preparations Robbie fired up his DJI drone and took some good aerial photo shots.  I briefly thought about launching our drone and challenging him to a dogfight, but we needed to get moving, so passed up that opportunity.

Motoring Through the C & D Canal
On our Sunday cruise the weather was just fabulous. as the passage of the cold front brought in some drier air from the northwest, giving us temps in the mid-80’s on the water with 50% relative humidity.  We drove from the fly bridge all day across mostly flat water, finally exiting Chesapeake Bay and started a more easterly trek via the C & D Canal.  We were originally targeting our third consecutive anchorage in Chesapeake City, but there was no room there for us as that small inlet was jammed up with weekenders.  So we motored on for another 5 miles and slipped into the Summit North Marina for the night….roughly halfway between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Summit North Marina

The entrance to Summit Marina is skinny water….even at a +2.5 foot tide we saw less than a foot underneath the keel at one point as we negotiated the entry….at a very, very slow pace….if we were going to run aground, we didn’t want it to be a cruncher and something we couldn’t power back out of.  But we made it to the dock without issue, went through our usual shut down and wash down routines, although we are now in the process of revising our game plan for the next few days – there is no way we can get out of here until mid-afternoon
Summit North Marina
tomorrow based on the depths and tides.  So we’ll make it a short day to an interim anchorage, though it also means we’ll lose a day off of the desired plan.

We slept in late (well, Rick did anyway) on Monday (08-Aug), and while waiting for a usable tide we reworked a portion of our mission planning.  In the end we decided we would make a short run today to an anchorage in Delaware Bay, and then on Tuesday skip Cape May completely – which seemed to hold more depth issues for us – and make an overnight run up to Atlantic City to arrive there early on Wednesday morning (10-Aug).  That would also allow us to beat some weather that’s predicted for later Wednesday and Thursday, and hey, Atlantic City, NJ isn’t a bad place hang out while waiting for bad weather to pass.

Continuing Across the C&D Canal
As we approached our target anchorage in Delaware Bay area around 1700 everything was looking good, but then the situation went to hell in a hurry....more on that in the next post.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

03-05 Aug: AYB to Deltaville, Then Patuxent River, MD

Waiting for the Bridge to Open
Transiting Great Bridge Lock

Adios to AYB

We awoke to clear skies and cooler temps on Wednesday and just before 0900 we made our escape from AYB. Within a half hour we were through the Great Bridge lock and bridge and we resumed our northern journey.   Soon thereafter Ghost Rider was beyond the remoteness of the Chesapeake City area and into the busy industrial and military ports of Portsmouth, Norfolk and Newport News.  This is an area where you need to pay attention to traffic.

Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Va.
Navy Yard at Newport News
The Naval Yard in Portsmouth is one of the largest shipyards in the world, where the specialty and focus is repairing, overhauling and modernizing navy warships. It's the oldest (circa 1767) and largest industrial facility that the U.S. Navy has.  And they have some impressively sized ships there, including the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), for what the U.S. Navy calls “Planned Incremental Availability” – aka PIA, which is navy-speak for “lots of maintenance.”  
More Carriers at Newport News
Carrier at Newport News
(Side note:  The navy is down to 10 carriers since the sequester budget cuts, and thus they run them hard; such complex beasts require a lot of down time for maintenance…typically each carrier is only deployed 20 to 25% of the time, all the rest is spent on repairs, refits and training.)  Likewise, the navy yards at Norfolk and Newport News are equally impressive – we cruised for quite long stretches in close proximity to lots of floating grey steel.

 We finally exited the ICW around 1230 (literally….it ends in Norfolk) and entered the wide expanse of the Chesapeake Bay.  It was good to be back in big water again.  The winds had picked up to around 15K with occasional gusts higher, thus we were in some short, hard chop of 2-3 footers at short intervals and took some spray.  But it was still a very pleasant day out there, with air temps staying right around 80F, and water temp down to a reasonable 83F.  After the last few weeks of heat indices above 100F, this felt really good.

Ghost Rider, Adventure & Their Fountain
We also fought an opposing current most of the day in the big bay, which combined with the head seas and wind brought us down to between 5K and 6K SOG, making for a fairly long day.  We pulled into the Deltaville Marina around 1900, then got the boat and ourselves squared away per our usual “everything needs a serious bath” routine.

Nordhavn 55 Adventure
As it turned out, we were docked right next to a Nordhavn 55, Adventure, owned and crewed by Brad and Lorraine – who coincidentally hail from Cape Coral, FL, directly across the river from our condo in Fort Myers.  Yup, it’s a small world.   Even though we didn’t complete our cleanup routines until nearly 2100, they graciously invited us over for a late happy hour (with seared freshly caught tuna), and enjoyed an excellent evening together.

As for boat business….Ghost Rider ran well today with no anomalies, and the standby autopilot pump held its own in some sloppy conditions.  It was a thankfully boring day in terms of boat system events.

Heading to Dinner on Brad's
Go-Fast Boat
We slept in on Thursday (04-Aug) and spent the day relaxing at Deltaville as well as looking at routing options between here and the Boston area.  Late that afternoon, yet another Nordy couple joined us on the docks, Jo and Robbie who have their Nordhavn 47, Southern Star, at a nearby boat yard for some work. We enjoyed happy hour aboard Ghost Rider, and then we piled into Brad and Lorraine’s other vessel, a gorgeous go-fast 34’ Fountain center console, and we boated (at one point at about 60 mph) around the Deltaville peninsula to a small and charming waterside restaurant, Merroir.  If you’re into fresh-off-the-boat oysters, clams, crab cakes and flaky white amberjack filets, it’s the place to go in this area.

Departing Deltaville (Pic Courtesy
of Lorraine & Brad)
We departed Deltaville on Friday morning (05-Aug) and headed further north up the Chesapeake Bay towards an anchorage at the mouth of the Patuxent River, a short 8 hour journey of 55 NM.  The weather was good -- winds died down, so it was a smooth ride with temps in the mid-80's, with sun filtering through a high layer of cirrus.

We were joined by Jo and Robbie’s N47, Southern Star, in a loose trail formation – they departed Deltaville about an hour after we did since they had to wait for an acceptable tide on the north side of the peninsula.  (By the way, they're from New Zealand, and yes, they got here via their Nordhavn....they have some serious ocean crossing miles under their keel.)

Around 1630 hours we were nearing an area marked as a “Prohibited Area” on the chart, and our planned course was within about a half mile of its boundary; a nearby US Navy patrol boat contacted us on VHF channel 16 and asked us to alter course to clear the area by an additional 1.5 miles to the east due to live fire exercises in progress there.  We promptly rogered that and deviated as requested.

Ghost Rider and Southern Star Anchored at the Mouth
of the Patuxent River
We arrived at Pax River anchorage just after 1800, dropped the hook, let out 200 feet of chain and deployed the snubber.  Southern Star arrived about 25 minutes later and did the same.  Then we lowered the dingy, cleaned up, and motored Casper over for a very nice evening with Jo and Robbie, which included a fresh mahi dinner.  It was a little noisy for a few hours, however....Navy F/A-18 pilots at nearby NAS Pax were conducting what they call night FCLPs - Field Carrier Landing Practice - which is basically simulating carrier night landings on a small patch of runway, and that involves a lot of noisy afterburner use.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

30-Jul to 2-Aug: Still Stuck in Chesapeake, Va. (AYB)

We spent a few MORE days at AYB, albeit not voluntarily.  The weather wasn’t good and then we managed to break something else…namely the Simrad autopilot.  Shit.  Actually it was the autopilot pump, a Simrad RPU300, which suddenly decided to respond only to port turn commands.  We’re trying to be flexible and adaptable, but I didn’t like left-handed holding patterns when I was flying, even less so in this boat.
Redundant Autopilot Pumps...Until One Died
While we can’t be certain why it failed, one theory is that while we were bleeding the hydraulics after installing the new steering ram some small pieces of the old unit’s deteriorating seal fouled the pump’s cylinder and/or small screening filters.  The other theory is plain old coincidental bad luck.  (This pump had less than a year’s service on it – it was the one we had installed when we bought the boat to provide some redundancy.)  Anyway, the unit is under warranty, so we switched the valves to use the standby pump, test that thoroughly, removed the malfunctioning unit, and are had it shipped back to Yacht Tech in Florida (where it was purchased and installed) so they can process the warranty claim with Simrad.  No telling when the replacement pump will catch up with us.

Chelle's Towing Rig for the LPG Bottle
Amidst our maintenance challenges we have to celebrate the small successes, right?  Well, one of our three LPG bottles was empty, and we wanted to get it filled -- reference the adjacent picture to see how Chelle rigged our collapsible wagon as a trailer attached to her bike….much easier than walking a mile with a 30 pound gas bottle!
Since we arrived here we had been wanting to try a local and nearby restaurant, “Vino” (, and on Monday evening (01-Aug) the rain finally stopped long enough so that we could ride our bikes there and back, enjoying an outstanding dinner in between.  We highly recommend it – good Italian food and steaks, ditto for their fresh seafood specials, with excellent service, enjoyable background music, and great acoustics – you could actually have a normal conversation and hear each other.

It's Actually $1.80 When You Purchase Over 200 Gallons!
On Tuesday, 02-Aug, we were mostly waiting out weather and it was also the day we removed the bad autopilot pump & shipped it away for warranty processing.  Our main goal this day was to move Ghost Rider over to the fuel dock to take on a load of diesel and pump out the black water tank.  While we really didn’t need the fuel-up, at $1.80 a gallon (nickel discount for over 200 gallson) it was too good to pass up….nothing gets less expensive as you head north from here.  Around 1630 the TRWs finally let up, so we were able to tank up (535 gallons of the stuff plus the requisite Stanadyne fuel additive) and pump out the black water.  After moving the boat back to our slip we enjoyed a peaceful (and dry!) evening on the boat, including excellent left-overs from Vino for dinner.

On Wednesday (03-Aug) we will head further north, destination is Deltaville, Virginia. Since we have to negotiate at least one bridge opening and a lock, we think it will be a 10-hour sortie.