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

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