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.