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.