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.