Sunday, August 26, 2018

August 2018: Service at AYB and on to Norfolk

We got a visit from our assigned AYB technician (Tim) the morning of Wednesday, 22-August and we went to work on the sight gauge and steering ram issues.

We managed to get the sight gauge upper shutoff valve completely closed with a mostly unreasonable amount of torque on its packing nut, and that allowed us to drain the sight tube glass into a small bucket.  Removal of that tube revealed a crack near the top along with a malformed o-ring, so Tim would be hunting for replacement parts.  Then, after we depressurized the steering system, Tim also removed the faulty steering ram, and then took all the parts with him back to the shop to see what they could match up, or determine what needed to be ordered and shipped.

Another Shot of Ghost Rider's Alongside Tie Up at AYB
The estimate to rebuild the steering ram came back at a week and an undetermined cost….whereas a new one could be here in a day or so at 1.5 boat units.  Rick opted for the latter – rebuilding a 16 year old ram just didn’t sound like a great idea, as even later model rebuilds tend to be a 50/50 proposition.  We still did not have an ETIC, but weren’t stressing about that; whether it was another day or a week did not matter much to us as long as we felt the key repairs were solid.

That evening we walked to the nearby restaurant, Vino Italian Bistro.  Our experience there a few years ago was excellent, and this time was no different – excellent drinks, food and service….their scallops, shrimp and even the salmon are first-rate-fresh, and the accompanying pasta seasonings are outstanding. We highly recommend it to anyone transiting the area.

On the morning of Thursday, 23-August the big news was the weather….in a very good way.  We felt like we had been transported to Fort Myers in February – air temps in the low 70’s, humidity in the 50’s, a bright cloudless sky and a slight cooling breeze.  We turned off the A/C and opened up the boat.  It felt wonderful.  Ironically enough this perfect summer weather greeted us at the very place where we and the boat would take refuge during any severe tropical weather. AYB’s location on the Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal is about 16 miles inland from both the Virginia coastline and the Chesapeake Bay, and with the Great Bridge Lock immediately to the west it experiences little to no storm surge.  For obvious reasons it’s a popular hurricane hole and their priority dockage program is well worth the nominal reservation fee.
Chelle on Her E-bike with Golf Clubs

Taking advantage of the glorious weather, in the early afternoon Chelle grabbed her golf clubs and rode off on her e-bike to play golf at a nearby course…about 5 miles away. Everyone there thought she was nuts for biking that distance with clubs slung across her back, which, of course, was true enough.

Just after that Tim, our AYB tech, showed up with the new steering ram cylinder.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that the recommended replacement unit was a bit bigger (longer plus larger piston diameter) than what we were replacing.  That meant that just re-using the existing attaching bolt holes gave us full starboard rudder authority (30 degrees) but very limited port rudder (about 8 degrees.)  So we had to drill new mounting holes for the larger ram.  Since that meant punching through a ¼” stainless steel mounting plate, that took a while but we got it done.  We added some Seastar hydraulic fluid to replace what we lost with the cylinder swap-out, pumped up the reservoir pressure back to 28 PSI, and confirmed with both manual wheel movement and autopilot steering that we had full rudder authority in both directions. Of course we will need to sea trial all that on the next sortie.
Our Shiny New Steering Ram

By the morning of Friday, 24-August Tim had secured the parts needed to replace the port fuel tank sight gauge and we finally got that damned thing remediated.  It was bit of a puzzle when it came to figuring out how the multiple o-rings (two at each end of the tube) should be configured, but Tim persisted and got it solved.  

The weather was still fantastic, so Chelle decided to try out another nearby golf course while Rick went into cleanup mode: both in the lazarette to wipe up residual steering fluid, shop vac the drill shavings and laying down clean absorbents around and under the new ram and hose runs; and in the engine room around the new sight gauge, wiping up the diesel spills and disposing of those soaked absorbents pads.  Chelle also decided it was time to replace the Seagull fresh water filter in the galley, so Rick took care of that, too.

We had one more last relaxing evening at AYB, happy with the repair service, enjoyed another sunset, and began planning to make our way to Norfolk for our next stop.
Another Fine Sunset, This One at the AYB Docks
We had a broken cloud cover overhead on the morning of Saturday, 25-August but it was still pleasant enough, with temps in the low 80’s and reasonable humidity.  Since we only had a short jaunt to Norfolk’s Waterside Marina (maybe two hours even with having to negotiate one bridge and a lock), we were in no hurry to get underway.  We walked to the marina office to settle our bill, and 2 ½ boat units later we were done with that.  (We should note here that AYB did not charge us dockage fees for the days they were on the boat for service.)  Chelle took her bike to make one more run for a few grocery items, but just before 1300 we had Ghost Rider underway and waiting on the bridge, behind a tug pushing several hundred feet worth of barges.
Locking Through Great Bridge We Had Plenty of Company

Rick had radioed the tug on VHF channel 13 to find out where he wanted us to loiter as we waited for the bridge, so there was no confusion on that.  When we got to the Great Bridge lock there were two other small runabouts also waiting but the lock master gave them the red stop light and via radio directed the tug/barge and Ghost Rider into the lock.  It got a little snug in there, but everyone behaved themselves well enough.

The short 11 nautical mile ride to Norfolk and Waterside Marina was uneventful, and we had plenty of US Navy firepower to stare at along the way.  The 90 degree turn into Waterside’s basin was a little tight, especially with a decent sized Marlow parked at its entry dock, but we managed to poke our nose in there, pivot and get tied up without issues.  Coincidentally, we were also now at mile marker zero of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW), which, practically speaking, means very little since there are plenty of navigable and well-marked waterways between here and Maine.
This Part of the ICW Features Many Large Navy Warships

This place was going to be very different from AYB….besides a basin that’s a little on the snug side, it was also teeming with boats, boaters, pedestrians, and the docks and boardwalk were alive with music, both live and piped in.  Numerous restaurants, bars, bistros and hotels border the area. And the local ferry boats, which ran on a very regular 15 minute schedule, were hard to miss as they blasted a loud horn upon each departure….and that continued until 1145.  

Dockside at Waterside Marina....Lots Going On Here
We munched a light outdoor dinner at the adjacent Blue Moon Tap House; while their bar has a limited selection of scotch, the hot pretzels with crab dip almost made up for that.  Afterwards we took a seat in Waterside’s small outdoor amphitheater theater and listened to the lively classic rock of the Brass Wind band; with nine members (including two trombones and two trumpets) they were loud, but also very good.  It was like attending a live Chicago Transit Authority concert back in the '60's, and the weather for it was perfect.  It was a late night but we slept very well.

We’re going to spend a couple days here relaxing and touring, more on that in the next blog post.

We Passed Another Nordy on the Way to Norfolk, N46 Shrug. We Had a Nice Chat
on VHF Ch17.  They Were Headed to AYB.

Dining Outdoors at Waterside with Ghost Rider in the Background
The Brass Wind Band at Waterside Marina....They Had a Very Good Sound
Chelle Joins the Dance Floor....During an Instrumental Designed to Accomplish Just That

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

August 2018: Oriental to Atlantic Yacht Basin

Nice Homes Located on the River Dunes Property Overlooking the Marina

On Thursday, 16-August and Friday, 17-August we continued our very pleasant stay at River Dunes with relaxing mornings on the boat.  In the afternoon Chelle again commandeered the courtesy car for shopping errands in town, while Rick caught up with his Wheelhouse preventive maintenance list.  He also spent at least one OCD hour running and testing the hydraulic systems on the boat, attempting to verify there were no more line leaks at any point in the extensive plumbing runs.  (So far none found.)  And we dismantled the wing engine’s Racor fuel filter bowl to drain and clean it of some accumulated debris, and also replaced its filter element as a precaution.

Sunset Peeking Through The Pines
Unfortunately we also heard from Mike and Mari that their service down at Jarret Bay was taking longer than planned (sounds familiar, eh?) and wouldn’t make it back to River Dunes before we departed.  Perhaps we’ll be able to rendezvous with them on the return trip.

Friday evening we had dinner reservations at the marina’s Harbor Club (which is only open three nights a week) for dinner.  But after being seated for 30 minutes with no sign of a waitperson, we got up and went back to the boat.  To be fair there was a wedding event on the second floor and they appeared to be grossly understaffed.  And the next morning when we went to check out there was a note waiting for us from the dining room manager apologizing for the service issues, along with a nice bottle of wine.  At least they owned up and tried to make amends.

Even though the weather forecast wasn’t the best – calling for pretty good chances of afternoon thunderstorms – that wasn’t going to change any time soon, so on Saturday, 18-August we got back underway.  Chelle manned the helm and took us off the docks to continue the journey northward via the ICW, which on this leg included segments of the Neuse River, Bay River, Goose Creek, the Pamlico River, the Pungo River, and finally the Alligator River, where we planned to anchor for the evening. 

As you might guess from that laundry list, it was by no means a straight line course – we zigged and zagged our way through the North Carolina coastal plains.  The river waters here are mostly chocolate brown, and not particularly appealing to the eye….and there isn’t much to see along the way.  It was quite warm with temps in the low-to-mod 90’s, and the winds were stiff all day, blowing 15 to 20 knots from the WSW, which made for some chop in the few open / exposed areas, but otherwise was mostly a non-factor.
A Nordhavn 55, Chinatsu, Anchored Near Us in the Alligator River

We arrived at the Alligator River anchorage around 1800, dropped the hook and got it set on the first try.  It was a little rolly with one to two foot chop on the bow due to the stiff breeze at this wide bend in the river, but it was comfy enough and the anchor held with no issues.  Just a hundred or meters or so from our drop position was another Nordhavn, an N55 named Chinatsu; Rick hailed them on the VHF and we had a long chat with Richard, who was on his way south towards Georgia, with eventual plans to cruise down the island chain to Tobago once the tropical season settles down.

We had been lucky with the weather today, seeing no storm clouds of any kind, and during the early evening that dry spell continued, but the radar imagery to our west indicated that would change soon enough.  So we covered the fly bridge and closed up the boat, fired up the genset and enjoyed the cool air conditioning for the evening.  Around 2100 the storms moved in with a pretty good drenching (free washdown) and a good light show, and the rain continued intermittently throughout the night.
Threatening Skies at the Alligator River Anchorage

The morning of Sunday, 19-August arrived with a low grey overcast, but the rain had ceased and we were still within the boundaries of our anchor circle.  The winds had died to around 10 knots from the west so the rollers had diminished somewhat.  Chinatsu retrieved her ground tackle around 0800, and we did the same just after 0900 and headed Ghost Rider north towards Coinjock.

While this portion of the ICW is about as boring as it gets on the “inside”, the upside is that there are very few bridges, and most of those are tall enough that openings are not required for passage.  The Alligator River bridge is one notable exception at a height of 14 feet, although the bridge tender had the swing open and waiting on us when we got there, and we motored on.  Winds picked back up later in the day to the 15-20K range, but it was only noticeable in the open waters of Abermarle Sound, where the stabilizers actually had to work at it in the tightly spaced three foot rollers.

The weather forecast had called for afternoon storms once again but we saw none.  The overcast kept the air temperature in the low-to-mid 80’s most of the day until we got close to Coinjock, where the skies cleared a bit and the sun heated the air back up into the 90’s.  But we were docked up by 1530, washed down by 1630, and settled in with cocktails shortly after that.  The one thing Coinjock Marina is noted for – other than its convenient alongside docks right on the ICW – is their prime rib dinner; so we ordered up a 32 ounce slab of meat and split it between us, and it was indeed delicious.  Unfortunately we ended up eating it on the boat, as we had developed another sight gauge fuel leak on the port side main tank that required fairly consistent attention.  But we got it mostly under control (e.g., manageable for the night) and were hoping that once we got to Atlantic Yacht Basin (AYB) we could engineer a permanent fix.
Enroute to Coinjock....Not Much to See Along the Way

Overnight thunderstorms traversed the area and washed off any salt that we had missed with the hose.  But as of 0930 on the morning of Monday, 20-August we got a break in the action, so we departed Coinjock around 1000 and continued our trek to the north.  It was only a short jaunt to AYB and we were hoping to beat the next round of afternoon storms….which we luckily did.

The downside of this short part of the northbound ICW – apart from the narrow waterways and rather dull scenery – are three low bridges, which happen to be spaced such that we ended up waiting an average of 20 minutes for an opening at each of them. Fortunately the wind and current were nominal, so station keeping just short of each bridge was not particularly challenging.  The other noticeable change was the amount of vessel traffic between Coinjock and AYB, with an assortment of USCG cutters and barges heading mostly in the opposite direction.  Fortunately all were responsive to the radio and we had verbal agreement each time on how we would pass each other.
We Had to Wait on a Few Bridge Openings Enroute to AYB

The good news was that the water was nearly mirror like and flat calm, as opposed to the sea conditions on the outside, which were mostly four-to-six feet at short intervals.  So the trade-off on the inside was quite acceptable.

We pulled up to the AYB docks just before 1500.  We knew from previous experience that their dockside shore power was only 208V, so we had called ahead to reserve one of their boost transformers (which takes the 208V and jacks it up by a small percentage to around 220V, which would be good enough for Ghost Rider’s systems as long as we carefully managed the power draw.)  We docked up, hooked up and washed down in short order, and settled in for a mostly relaxing night with dinner onboard.  Rick had to change out the absorbents which were keeping the sight gauge fuel leak at bay, but that was the extent of our evening work.
Ghost Rider Tied Up Alongside at AYB.  Note the Portable
Boost Transformer at the Lower Left.

It rained again overnight – talk about an annoying pattern – but the morning of Tuesday, 21-August broke dry if overcast.  Showers were still forecast for the area, but the longer range outlook was definitely improving.  Our goal for the next few days was to repair two issues. 

First, the port side main fuel tank’s sight gauge had developed a nasty leak, this time at the top, which didn’t manifest itself until we had topped off the tanks and the fuel level rose above that point.  Unfortunately it was leaking both from the upper sight glass o-ring and at the upper shutoff valve, which is a bad combo.  That means we may have to pump fuel out of the tank until the level draws down below that point else we could have a fuel gusher in the engine room. And since we recently topped off all tanks we currently have no tank to which we could transfer.

Second, the hydraulic steering ram had also developed a leak at the piston seal; while not a dramatic one, those things only get worse, and it’s never a good idea to ignore a potential steering problem or even failure.  So that will need to be rebuilt or replaced with a new unit.
A Sick and "Bandaged" Fuel Sight Gauge (Wrapped with Oil
Absorbents).  We Tightened the Two Top Nuts to Reduce the Rate of
Leakage, but New Parts Are Required for a Real Fix.
The Leaky Steering Ram....Note the Brown Stain Underneath at the Piston End of the Unit.  Not Good.
So....we now sit at the docks at Atlantic Yacht Basin.  We are in their queue for the repair work, but currently don't have a time line estimate (and parts will be another crap shoot.)  But since we're not on a schedule, and it's forecast to rain for the next two days anyway, it's not like we're losing time.  We'll have updates on these issues in the next blog.
Our Track from Up the ICW to Atlantic Yacht Basin in Virginia

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

August 2018: Charleston to Oriental

Getting Ready to Depart Charleston....the Harbor is a Busy Place.
The morning of Sunday, 05-August dawned with clear skies and nearly calm winds, and while the forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms during the day, it was much less onerous than what we had been seeing the previous 10 days.  So just after 0915 we departed Charleston Harbor Marina at a nearly slack tide and steered Ghost Rider back out into the Atlantic.  Out there seas were smooth with two foot swells at generous intervals and little to no wind chop, so the ride was excellent.  During the course of the day we could see some cumulonimbus lines form just inland along the sea breeze boundary, but their movement paralleled our course and had died out by the time we turned into the channel for Winyah Bay and the Georgetown Light anchorage.

At Anchor Near Georgetown Light Just After Sunset.
Arriving at a mostly slack tide was fortuitous, but we still got frustrated trying to set the anchor in the river’s muddy bottom behind North Island.  After two failed attempts we gave up and moved about two miles further upriver just north of Cat Island where we finally got the hook to take a good grip in the muddy bottom.  We thoroughly tested the bite; the current here runs several knots at peak tides….to the point that the main engine’s propeller and shaft were actually windmilling while at anchor during most of the evening’s outgoing tide.

The flies here at this time of year are large and aggressive with a stinging bite, so we wasted no time in cranking up the genset, closing up the boat and getting the A/C going.  We had a peaceful night.
Aerial View of Bald Head Marina....Its Entry Channel is a Bit Tight
with Wind and Current on the Beam.

Monday, 06-August greeted us with sunny skies, a light breeze and the same ripping current. But the anchor had stayed right where we had dropped it.  The only other remarkable thing was the number of dead bugs on the boat decks – we were really glad we had closed up.  We got an early start (for us) since we had a lengthy run of nearly 80 nautical miles up to Cape Fear and the Bald Head Island Marina.  At 0745 we retrieved the hook and shortly thereafter found ourselves doing over 11 knots on the outgoing tide.  Sea conditions on the outside were once again quite pleasant with two foot swells at comfortable intervals and just a slight wind chop in the southeast breezes.
Bald Head Marina is a Picturesque Place.

Eventually we lost the benefit of the tailwind current and settled into an easy cruise speed of between 7.5 and 8.0 knots.  We arrived at the head of the Cape Fear River channel around 1700 and made our way to the narrow entrance of the Bald Head Marina by 1730.  A moderate sized thunderstorm had parked itself over the island earlier in the day, but by the time we arrived it had rained itself out.  It was after hours at the marina with no dock hands available, but – after waiting on the large ferry boat that did not seem to care about right-of-way rules – the tie-up on the assigned t-head was straightforward.  We got the boat and ourselves washed down, then settled in for a comfortable evening.
Ghost Rider Tucked in at Bald Head Marina.

On Tuesday, 07-August we slept in a bit and enjoyed a lazy morning at the BHI docks and tended to some standard Wheelhouse recurring maintenance items.  The marina is picturesque, with generous spaces and solid 240V/50A power at the floating docks, and is located within an enclosed and well protected basin.  It is a bit shallow, though – we saw less than a foot below the keel at low tide; anything bigger than a Nordhavn 47/50 probably couldn’t fit in here.

That afternoon we rented a golf cart and toured the accessible portions of the island, which can only reached by boat (the ferry runs at half hour intervals) and is a cart-only community, with less than 200 permanent year-round residents.  That population, however, blooms to around 10,000 during season.  Today this barrier island is noted for its beaches, prim cottages, vast marshlands, and as a beach sanctuary for nesting sea turtles. And while its notoriety does not rival Charleston’s in the history books, it still has some interesting stories to tell. 
Beach Cottages on Bald Head Island.

Like most of this part of the U.S. coastline, its original native inhabitants were chased away or victimized by imported diseases, beginning with the Spanish in the 1500’s.  We owe the Spaniards for “discovering” the nasty shoals that extend far into the Atlantic, where they managed to shipwreck numerous vessels.  By the time the Brits gained control a century later they apparently had not learned much from those previous sailing adventures, as they also lost their fair share of ships in the same (“Frying Pan”) shoals.  Indeed, in what’s known as the “Battle of the Sandbars” circa 1718, the British sailed a warship from Charleston to chase one of the many pirate ships plying these waters, and both went aground during the battle; suffice it to say the first one to float off at a higher tide (the Brits) beat the hell out of the other (pirate) ship and its captain was hanged here shortly thereafter. 
Beach on the East Side of Bald Head Island.

The area became a naval focus again during the U.S. Revolutionary and Civil Wars, if only briefly, and then again during World War II – it was always a key supply port, and the extensive offshore shallows caused many allied merchant ships to run much further off the coast where German U-Boats picked them off with ease in the early years of that conflict.  So it’s not a stretch to say the name “Cape Fear” has all sorts of relevance.

We spent several hours touring the south (inhabited) end of the island, stopping for lunch at a snack bar in one of the shopping squares along the way, and climbed the 108 steps to the top of the Old Baldy lighthouse for some excellent views of the local landscape.  We concluded the day with a late shrimp dinner on the patio deck of Mojo's, one of the three restaurants on the marina premises – the service and food were quite good, although we still make better rum drinks on Ghost Rider.
Rick Posing at the Foot of the Old Baldy Lighthouse Placard.
Chelle and the Old Baldy Lighthouse.
View of the Island's Marsh Country from the Lighthouse.
View of Cape Fear River Inlet from the Lighthouse
View of the Marina from the Lighthouse.  Ghost Rider is Roughly in the
Center of the Photo at the End of the First Long Dock.
We decided to stay another day since the weather forecast and tidal currents would be slightly in our favor with that approach, so Wednesday, 08-August was more relaxing downtime at BHM.  Chelle spent the morning cleaning fly bridge cushions and hanging her veggie net, while Rick attacked some more exterior fiberglass stains and topped off the water tanks.  Chelle wanted to rent a kayak in the afternoon but missed the timing a bit – turns out they only allow launching those here at certain tides.  After that we just relaxed and caught up on email and news, updated the latest blog notes, and got the boat preflighted for the planned departure the next morning.

On Thursday, 09-August we set an alarm so we could depart at a reasonably high tide and tolerable current flow, and just after 0800, after waiting for the two ferries to make their turn and exit through the narrow marina channel, we pushed away from the dock.  The winds were blowing at 20 knots out of the southwest with higher gusts and smashing into outgoing current – and that made the wide river basin a boiling, whitecapped mess.  We were soon taking spray up to the fly bridge.  The sea forecast had called for two to three feet, but we were seeing frequent five and six footers as Ghost Rider traversed the Cape Fear channel towards the open Atlantic.
Approaching the Masonboro / Wrightsville Beach Anchorage.

Unfortunately the river channel took us nearly due south, bashing into those head seas for nearly 15 miles, before we could clear Frying Pan Shoals and make our turn to the north.  After that turn the ride was considerably better, and after escaping the counter current an hour or so after that, the seas improved to the forecast heights.  The final three hours of the journey were relatively smooth and we saw no threatening storms the entire day.

We entered the Masonboro Inlet just before 1500 and made our way west and then north to tuck in behind Wrightsville Beach.  We dropped the hook in ten feet of water, although it took two attempts to get it set firmly.  But by 1600 we were secured with genset running and the air conditioning cooling us off nicely in the “feels like” 100F heat.
Another Shot of the Opposite Shoreline at the Masonboro / Wrightsville
Beach Anchorage.

We retrieved the anchor got back underway around 0845 the morning of Friday, 10-August, pointing Ghost Rider back out into the Atlantic for the leg to Cape Lookout.  We had clear skies, light winds and a relatively smooth ocean – initially just two-to-three foot rollers from the south at reasonable intervals.  All of that was right in line with the forecast.  Later in the afternoon the rollers grew to four-to-five feet, but at six second intervals and quartering off the stern, so the ride was still quite tolerable even if the autopilot occasionally struggled with a steady heading.

We covered the 73 nautical mile trek in less than 10 hours, and by 1830 we had maneuvered inside Cape Lookout’s well protected basin and had the anchor firmly set in 25 feet of water.  We enjoyed drinks and sunset on the fly bridge, followed by a scrumptious shrimp jambalaya dinner, then called it a day.
The Sunset at Our Anchorage at Cape Lookout.

We were in no particular hurry the morning of Saturday, 11-August, as we only had a 17 mile sortie to our next destination, Jarret Bay Marina, located on the ICW just north of Beaufort, NC.  It has a reputation as an excellent boatyard with a ride range of services and parts, as well as some of the best pricing on diesel fuel, so we wanted to check it out.  We pulled up the anchor just after high noon and headed Ghost Rider a few miles west towards the Beaufort Inlet….where the conditions turned out to be worse than boating in a washing machine. 

Winds had picked up from the SSW to around 20K with higher gusts, and when the resulting ocean swells collided into the swift outgoing current coming from the inlet, it created a confused, boiling mess.  The autopilot does a lousy job keeping the boat pointed in the right direction in those conditions, so Rick applied some extra RPMs and hand steered the beast until we got inside the breakers.  Then we joined the ICW and headed north in calmer waters.

Aerial View of Jarret Bay...The Marina Portion is Small but Well Kept; the Yard and Repair Facilities are
Highly Rated.  And They Have Several Parts Stores On Site.
Battling an outgoing current the entire way, we arrived at Jarret Bay just before 1500.  We wanted to stop first at the fuel dock to take on diesel, but a large Marlow was hogging the pumps, so we just headed to the alongside floating dock.  Chelle handled the helm duties today and did a fine job with the parallel parking.  Bruce, the dockmaster, was on hand to help Rick with the lines, and within a few minutes later we were securely tied.  Then we spent about two hours hosing off salt from every square inch of Ghost Rider’s exterior.  Bruce came back by a couple hours later to check on us, offer Rick a golf cart ride to the parts store in the morning, and to let Chelle know he had a courtesy car available for her as well.

Jarret Bay is by no means a picturesque's in the middle of nearly nowhere and it is strictly a place you go for parts and/or service.  Even its lone floating dock is unprotected from the nearby ICW boat traffic.  But it's a good place to know and make contacts.
Jarret Bay's 440,000 Pound Travel Lift....This Bad Boy Can
Handle Some Seriously-Sized Yachts.

We heard thunder in the wee hours of the morning, but by sunrise on Sunday, 12-August the storms had passed, leaving a broken cloud cover and an abundance of humidity.  Light showers would move in and out through the day, but there was nothing severe that threatened.  In the morning we walked to the lone parts store that was open on Sunday and grabbed some minor hardware items, allowing Rick to replace a broken latching hook for the boat’s boarding door.  That afternoon Chelle took advantage of the courtesy car to do some shopping, while Rick attacked the service that had come due on the generator – cleaning its air filter, and changing the oil and oil filter, along with the on-engine secondary fuel filter.  By late afternoon all that was complete and Rick got to enjoy the final round of the PGA Championship on the big screen TV in the marina’s captain’s lounge.

Monday, 13-August featured some more early morning rain, along with a few but very intermittent light showers during the day, so in reality was mostly dry in spite of the stifling humidity.  Rick spent some time strolling the yard’s diesel parts stores that weren’t open over the weekend and was successful in locating a pencil zinc for the wing engine’s heat exchanger and a specialized 15 amp fuse assembly for the generator.

In the afternoon we had a visit from Keith, the yard’s service manager.  He was responding to our request for some service quotes – all future stuff on which we wanted to compare rates and fees; that included pricing for haul-out and bottom painting, as well as sanitary hose replacements and some potential cabinet doors to add to the galley’s pantry spaces.

Ghost Rider Docked at Jarret Bay's Floating Dock.
Rick also spent some time addressing two nuisance issues that we had recently encountered. The aforementioned 15 amp genset fuse had tripped a couple of times a few nights ago, and while we were able to reset it, we were pretty sure it was about to go south on us; that was a quick 5 minute replacement.  And our ST60 relative wind instrument had gone on the fritz, with its directional needle stuck at the 12 o’clock position and wind speed just showing dashes; Rick examined the wiring at the gauge and anemometer (the latter requiring some interesting mast-climbing gymnastics) and that all checked out; the only thing left was to try a factory reset of the gauge….which worked until the next day.  It's likely a failing head unit which can be dealt with later.

Our next planned stop for Tuesday, 14-August was River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC; but first we wanted to top off the fuel tanks at Jarret Bay as their pricing was the best in the region.  Rick maneuvered Ghost Rider a short distance to the fuel dock around 0930.  It was fairly still and already hot outside.  Bruce, as usual, was there to lend a hand, and then we spent an hour taking on 968 gallons of diesel to bring all four fuel tanks to the brims.  Around 1045 we bid farewell to Bruce and headed north up the ICW, which at this point in North Carolina is an interconnected series of rivers and creeks – some narrow and some wide, and none particularly deep.  At one relatively narrow point Chelle sighted something swimming in the water….Rick was thinking “that’s a mighty big river otter” when Chelle proclaimed “it’s a dog.”
We Just Managed to Avoid Colliding with This Lab Swimming
Across the River.  He Was On a Mission.

The critter was making a beeline for the opposite shore and was on a certain collision course with Ghost Rider.  Rick backed own hard on the throttle (we had a swift pushing current) while Chelle scrambled down from the fly bridge to the pilot house to start the wing engine and hydraulics – in case we needed to thrust the boat sideways to keep the prop away from the dog and us off the shoreline.  It looked to be an adult Labrador Retriever….he crossed just in front of us,from port to starboard, and eventually made it to the eastern shore of the river.  We don’t think that one is covered in the right-of-way rules, but we were happy with our improvisation.
Shortly after that we spotted another Nordhavn cruising down river towards us; we had been expecting to see Mike and Mari aboard Mari Me, as they were bringing their N47 down to Jarret Bay (from River Dunes) for some service.  We exchanged greetings on the VHF and planned a get-together for later in the week when they would return to their home port.
At River Dunes Marina....Clubhouse, Restaurant & Cottages.

The remainder of the short cruise to River Dunes was pleasant and uneventful and we entered the marina’s narrow entrance channel just before 1400.  Chelle again handled the helm and docking duties, and did a perfect job of steering Ghost Rider in for a stern-in starboard side tie to our assigned slip at the spacious floating docks.  A couple of energetic, young dock hands helped us tie up and also retrieved our packages from the marina office (we had been shipping things here for about a week) and a short time later we had the boat and ourselves cleaned up.  A line of rather electric but fast moving storms moved through just after 1800, but we had already finished our chores and were settled comfortably in the salon for the evening.

The next day, Wednesday, 15-August we lounged around the boat and took care of a couple of minor boat chores (replacing the forward shower’s hose and the holding tank’s vent filter).  That afternoon we took the marina’s courtesy car into Oriental, about eight miles distant, to run a few errands.  Those included haircuts for both Chelle and Rick (he was getting shaggy, at least in his opinion) and grabbing a big burger for lunch at Toucan’s on the waterfront.  (By the way, for other cruisers, a shout out for the Studio 55 hair salon there; Diana was friendly, skilled and helpful in many ways, including taking time to give Chelle some instructions on how to cut Rick’s hair…should we decide to take that risk in the future J.)
Ghost Rider's Slip at River Dunes Marina

Following that Chelle used the car to do some shopping / provisioning, and then we had another relaxing evening at the docks and on the boat.

We're going to hang here for a couple more days to enjoy the marina, run some more errands, take care of some minor boat business (including a bottom cleaning), and visit with friends Mike & Mari when they return from Jarret Bay.  After that we'll continue the journey north towards the Chesapeake.

Our Track on This Segment of the Journey....From Charleston, SC to Oriental, NC, with Stops
at Georgetown Light, Cape Fear, Cape Lookout and Jarret Bay Along the Way.
More of the Grounds at River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC.
Another View at River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

July 2018: Hanging Out In Charleston

Our Second Slip Assignment at CHM Was Much Closer In, and We Still
Had a View of the Yorktown & Patriot's Point

When we have to choose a place to get “stuck”, Charleston is definitely on our shortlist.  The weather forecast for the foreseeable future was awful – both regarding wave heights and winds out in the Atlantic, as well as overall storminess up and down the coast.  Weather forecasting is far from an exact science, but so far the prognosticators were being annoyingly accurate.  Given that we don’t really have any kind of schedule, and that Charleston is about the halfway point between Palm Beach and the mouth of the Chesapeake, we were in no hurry and content to hang out here for a while.

The first half of Wednesday, 25-July was spent on provisioning (Chelle’s new code word for “I need to get off the boat and do some kind of shopping”), and some routine boat maintenance tasks that Rick had been delaying for about a week.  The first of those involved taking manual voltage readings for each of the boat’s nine AGM batteries. This is only done once every three months and would be a simple task – except for the fact that we have to empty out the lazarette to get at six of them; they all were found to be within spec.  The next so-called routine item was to test all of the bilge pumps; there are four of those on Ghost Rider: the low water nuisance pump; the high water bilge pump; the manual emergency bilge pump; and the hydraulic emergency bilge pump.  This is only done once per year, but you have to run a hose down into the engine room and flood the bilge to test them, which is not a natural or comfortable act.  And it takes about 40 gallons of water on this boat to flood to a level where all the alarms and float switches activate.  But we got it all done and it was reassuring to find everything worked as advertised.
Moonrise, a Nordhavn 47, Moored at Her Private Dock Nearby

Then it was play time.  Charleston residents and good friends Ron and Mercedes dropped by late afternoon to pick us up and drive over to the private dock where they are keeping their newly acquired Nordhavn 47, Moonrise.  We spent a wonderful evening aboard, enjoying a tour, and then drinks, snacks, and Ron’s excellent grilled chicken, while swapping Nordhavn and cruising stories.  Ron and Mercedes are veteran voyagers and live-aboards, with many miles of Caribbean cruising under the keel of their 51' sailboat, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, named Samana.  (Read about that HERE.) 
Mercedes & Chelle Preparing Dinner Aboard Moonrise.

We’re so happy to see them testing out the “dark side” and joining the Nordy community…..they have forgotten more about boats and cruising than we’ll ever know.

The most remarkable thing about the next day, Thursday, 26-July was the weather; the morning started out OK – so off went Chelle on another “provisioning” mission – but the afternoon weather was downright ugly, with chaining TRWs clobbering the area, including copious and uncomfortably close lightning bolts.  We were happy to still be in port, but Chelle got caught out in that mess on her e-bike.  Resourceful as ever, she took shelter in a local firehouse (Mount Pleasant Fire Station #7) where the local fire chief insisted on giving her (and her bike) a ride back to the marina.  You can’t make this stuff up. 
Mount Pleasant's Fire Station #7....Chelle's Refuge from the Storm.

It was a similar story on Friday, 27-July, except that the day started out with a line of severe storms before we even got out of bed.  That pretty much continued throughout the day as a stubborn upper level flow was still keeping a frontal boundary stationary over the state; the sea breeze collision was sparking continuous storms pretty much directly overhead.  So we remained boat-bound, tending to some minor chores, along with Rick’s project-for-the-day….this time installing a new Caframo DC powered fan in the galley for Chelle.
Compact Caframo Fan….Looks Odd Without a Safety Shroud
But the Blades are Finger-Safe and It Moves Lots of Air.

That evening Ron and Mercedes joined us once again, this time for dinner onboard Ghost Rider.  We enjoyed another fun get-together and an excellent shrimp casserole.

The local weather on Saturday, 28-July was actually pretty good – hot as hell with heat index in the low 100’s, but storm activity did not develop until late in the day and stayed mostly inland.  Offshore there was a line of showers, but mostly there was just rough water out there (and forecast to get worse.)  Chelle took advantage of the brief weather lull to go with Ron and Mercedes over to nearby Shem Creek to pick up a load of shrimp fresh off the shrimping boats, along with some fresh swordfish.  Meanwhile Rick handled a few routine Wheelhouse maintenance items, and then spent some afternoon tanning time on the exterior of the boat scrubbing gelcoat stains. 

Paul had driven up from Edisto to spend some time with his Dad, and they stopped by late in the afternoon for a quick visit and a cold beer.  That evening we had another get-together with Ron and Mercedes, this time aboard Samana, where Chelle and Mercedes cooked up some of the day’s swordfish acquisition along with a mix of rice and scallops and shrimp.  It was scrumptious.
Exterior Shot of Beautiful Samana, a 51' Jeanneau Sun Odyssey....Lots
of Caribbean Miles Under Her Keel.
Ron, Rick & Mercedes Chowing Down on Samana.
The morning of Sunday, 29-July brought us a grey overcast that even before noon ballooned into more thunderstorms.  A quick look at the weather radar revealed most of the U.S east coast was dealing with the same thing.  It looked like a good day for Rick to attack the next boat project, replacing the exhaust elbow on the generator.  If there is a trouble spot on a Northern Lights Lugger genset it would be that exhaust mixing elbow, especially the original cast iron ones – they rust from the inside and eventually develop pinhole leaks.  Rick had plugged one of those with the magical JB Weld High Heat putty some time ago, but we weren’t too interested in testing the longevity of the patch.  Of course the exhaust elbow is on the wrong side of the engine in terms of (not so easy) access, thus the task took some interesting “boat yoga” and few hours of effort,  with a couple of work breaks tossed into the mix.  It’s also something of a messy job as inevitably some coolant escapes in the process, but we got it done and a thorough test run of the generator proved it to be successful.
The Old Exhaust Elbow with Patch....After Removal.
Where That Exhaust Elbow Used To Be.
The New Exhaust Elbow Now in Place.  That You Cannot See the Four
Attaching Bolts Tells You How Much Fun It Was Installing It.
 Like many such boat projects that exhaust work led to another discovery….the exhaust temperature sensor switch was sheared off at its connecting pins.  The genset runs just fine without it, but we lose the over-temp shutdown protection it provides.  We’ll hunt for its replacement part this week.

The Attaching Screws for This Bimini Top Support Brace Sheered
Off During the Overnight Storm....It Made a Helluva Racket in the Wind
Just after 0430 on the morning of Monday, 30-July, a line of severe thunderstorms moved in from the southeast and created some havoc.  We were awakened by the driving rain and a clattering noise from somewhere on the boat deck / fly bridge area.  A groggy Rick (with his rain gear on) eventually discovered that the Bimini top’s support arm on the starboard side of the fly bridge had sheared off at its mounting screws in the high wind; he lashed it back into place with a bungee cord and eventually got back to sleep.  Later in the day, during a temporary dry spell, we removed and re-bedded the attaching hardware for a more permanent repair.
The New EGT Switch and Wire Run on the Generator's Exhaust Elbow

We got another break in the weather later that evening and took advantage of that to walk the docks, check out another recently arrived Nordhavn (N62 Ocean Quest), and enjoyed chatting with Vincent, her new owner.  Following that we strolled over to the marina's Fish House restaurant and enjoyed a good meal to wrap up the day.

We had more early morning rain showers on Tuesday, 31-July, but at least they were not of the severe variety.  Rick got his last planned boat task done, replacing the generator’s exhaust temperature switch....we were fortunate to find one at a local parts store, and we were grateful to Ron and Mercedes for picking it up and delivering it to us at the marina. Meanwhile Chelle worked on relocating a towel rack in the guest head to a more convenient location, and she also made another provisioning run on her e-bike.  
Shem Creek is a Happening Place for Good Eateries

That evening we took advantage of another break in the storms and grabbed an Uber ride over to the Shem Creek area for dinner at the Water’s Edge restaurant.  We highly recommend it, especially the (whole) Crispy Flounder dish…picking through the bones was a small penalty to pay for the outstanding flavor of the tender white meat.  We doubt there is a bad restaurant along that entire waterway.

The morning of Wednesday, 01-August started out dry, but that didn’t last long.  Shortly before noon another line of showers and storms moved in from offshore and soaked the area once again.  While that kept air temps in the low 80’s, the humidity more than made up for it.  By early afternoon, however, the rain had paused and we decided to hop on the water taxi and cross the harbor over into Charleston proper.  We grabbed lunch at Ted’s Butcherblock deli, and then spent a few hours walking through the South Carolina Aquarium.
This is "Alabaster", the Albino Alligator (Originally Caught in Naples, FL)
Who Survives Only Because the SC Aquarium Gave Him a Place to Hang Out.

While the aquarium is mostly suited for the younger set, it does a fine job describing the ecology of the low country and associated seascapes and sea life.  Their most interesting live displays are the flightless bald eagle and an albino alligator (neither would survive in the wild), along with their sea turtle rescue center.  The latter is justifiably famous for their dedication to the rehabilitation and release of Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green sea turtles.  They do good work there….you can find more info HERE.

More rain began to fall after we got back to the boat, so we ordered up a pizza delivery and a movie for the evening.

The showers and storms continued off and on through the night and most of the next day, Thursday, 02-August.  Checking forecasts for a potential weather window wasn’t particularly productive either, as the prognosis was changing at frustratingly frequent intervals.

Showers and Storms Continued to Train Through the Well as
Up and Down the Eastern Seaboard....Also Churning Up the Atlantic Waters.
So during the first part of the day we tended to minor boat chores and projects.  By mid-afternoon the rain had diminished to virga class precipitation, so Chelle took off on her e-bike and Rick completed his engine room flooring project on the outboard side of the generator.  (We had been missing two small floor panels there since we bought the boat….an unused shelf and a hand saw created an easy temporary solution.)  The late afternoon respite from the storminess didn’t last long and shortly after sunset the next round of showers and storms moved in.  We enjoyed a lobster dinner aboard Ghost Rider with some Goombay Ghosts and ignored it all.

Weather-wise, Friday, 03-August was mostly a repeat of the day before.  (Ever see the movie “Groundhog Day”?)  Flash flood warnings continued all around us as the persistent weather system continued to dump rain up and down the coast, and some locales were now measuring the accumulated precipitation in feet rather than inches. We did get a brief break in the rain later in the day, and Ron and Mercedes joined us on Ghost Rider for dinner and drinks Friday evening, so the day wasn’t a complete washout.

And while the Saturday (04-August) forecast was basically more of the same, it appeared that a break in the pattern might reach us by Sunday, along with reasonable sea conditions. So that’s looking like a potential day to get back underway.  The next set of potential stopovers include Georgetown, Cape Fear, Masonboro and Cape Lookout, and at that point we plan to duck "inside" and head up to Oriental, NC.