Friday, October 19, 2018

October 2018: From Oriental to Edisto Island

On the ICW Between Oriental & Beaufort We Saw Several Homes
with Blue Tarps Covering Roof Damage from TS Michael
On Saturday, 13-October we arose early (for us) and experienced a slight taste of Fall weather – we had slept without air conditioning given the pleasant conditions overnight, and now we saw crystal clear skies, air temperature in the upper 50’s, humidity around 40% and a northerly breeze.  It was jacket weather.  After checking the weather one more time we were underway just before 0830…..according to our plan that would put us in the Beaufort Inlet at a slack current, and also get us into Charleston Harbor before sunset on the following day.

The run down the ICW to the Atlantic Ocean was smooth and mostly uneventful; there was some debris to dodge but nothing difficult.  We did experience a troublesome battery charging issue where the alternators didn’t seem to be keeping up with the DC draw, but we had “bailout” opportunities along the ICW all morning, so we continued with Chelle at the helm while Rick did some troubleshooting down below during the initial inland leg.  
Beaufort Inlet Is Usually Busy, Sometimes with Really
Big Cargo Ships....We Slowed to Let This Guy Pass

After checking that cable connections were still tightened properly, and verifying that no running equipment was drawing excessive current, we were still stumped.  By the time we approached Beaufort Inlet the state-of-charge (SOC) meter had leveled out at 98.4% with a net neutral current flow.  We figured that we could always crank up the generator if the charge state later dropped more, so we decided to press on.

Out in the Atlantic we found mostly benign conditions.  Beaufort Inlet notably was far better than the washing machine conditions we'd encountered back in early August on our way up the coast.  It was far from a flat sea, but even as the wind clocked around to northwesterly at 15 knots all we saw initially was a short two foot chop on top of a long two foot swell, quartering on the starboard bow as we headed southwest down the North Carolina coast.  But the weather remained quite pleasant with a temp in the low-to-mid 70’s and low humidity.  Late that afternoon – about 26 miles offshore – the winds died down a bit and the wide interval swell increased slightly….a fair trade, Ghost Rider seemed quite happy.
We Had Pleasant Sea Conditions and Fair Skies at Sunset for the
Offshore Overnight Run Down to Charleston

We traded off some short nap time to get ready for the overnight helm shifts, then as sunset approached we prepared the pilot house for night running….red flashlights, dimming all displays and controls, turning on the nav lights.  Chelle took the first shift until 2030 then Rick took over until 0100 (Sunday).  We ran the Furuno unit in its night-mode vector chart mode (black background) and configured the Nobeltec big screen to display dual radars – one set at close range (3NM) the other at 12NM.  We’ve been quite pleased with the range, sensitivity, discrimination and precise echo trails of the Furuno DRSX radar array especially when displayed on the Nobeltec PC unit.

While it seemed like the same calendar day to us, technically it was Sunday, 14-October.  Temperatures stayed in the low to mid 70’s so we ran with the boat open to the fresh night air.  We had a sliver of a moon providing some illumination until it set around 2200, but not so much that we couldn’t see thousands of stars above.  We had a couple of other boats running parallel to us about three miles to our east most of the night , but they were running slightly slower and eventually fell back off the radar, so not a factor.
Our Dual Radar Display for Night Running

After the moon set it was the proverbial “boating in a black ink bottle” – it was dark.  Around 0400 the winds shifted to the east and picked up to around 15 knots; a sea change came with it, with the wind waves on top of two different swells that quartered on the port stern and pushed Ghost Rider around quite a bit…the autopilot and stabilizers were working fairly hard, but there was no hull banging – just a lot of weaving and bobbing.  We could see on the XM weather display that a front had stalled out and become stationary, parked across our route about midway between Cape Fear and Charleston, and that likely had churned things up a bit.

Rick relieved Chelle at the helm at 0500.  Sunrise arrived on schedule at 0715, and finally we could actually see the strange ocean swell patterns; they looked a lot more benign than they felt.  But Ghost Rider wallowed dutifully on.  A few hours later, around 1100, that previously stalled front started moving south as a warm front and behind it our sea conditions improved once again, smoothing out considerably as the winds clocked back to the northwest and dropped off to 8 knots with temps already in the low 80’s.
Chugging Up the Ashley River You Get to See the Shoreline of Old Charleston

We finally arrived at the Charleston Harbor inlet entrance around 1400, made our way up the Ashley River and to the Harborage at Ashley Marina by 1515.  It wasn’t the ideal arrival time as the tide and current were running out fairly quickly but we had an alongside tie slip assignment that was easy to manage.  Ghost Rider got a much needed hose-down and then we pretty much collapsed into our easy chairs and called it a day – actually it was two days.

On this leg from Oriental, NC to Charleston, SC we had covered 243 nautical miles in just less than 31 hours, averaging almost 8 knots at a leisurely 1400 RPM on the big Lugger diesel.  The boat ran very well the entire time, with no propulsion hiccups, although we still had a mysterious battery charging issue that required some noodling.  For now, however, it was relax and sleep time.
The Track Capture for This Leg...the Trip Time & Distance Were Actually a Bit Longer as We Had Reset the
Tracking Device Shortly After Departure to Troubleshoot a Tracking Display Issue
The morning of Monday, 15-October, greeted us with sunny skies but also with warmer temps and higher humidity….it felt like late summer once again.  This was a planned “recovery day” so we did not have much on our agendas.  After a lazy morning Chelle rode her e-bike into town for a minor provisioning run while Rick caught up on emails, topped off the boat’s fresh water tanks, and coordinated some planned maintenance for our November return to Old Port Cove and Yacht Tech’s service center.  

Then it was time to noodle the battery charging issue. Rick thinks that he’s figured it out, for those that are curious about that sort of detail, there is a footnote at the end of this posting that summarizes his findings/ theory.  It took a couple of hours of testing spread over two days. That was enough troubleshooting on limited rest, so we called it quits, and that evening we had a quiet dinner on the boat and relaxed with some TV time.
Ghost Rider Moored at Ashley Marina's Long Face Dock

Per his normal daily habit the first thing Rick did the morning of Tuesday, 16-October, was check the battery states – and the voltages all read normal with the Linkpro gauge still showing 100%.  So far, so good.  The remainder of the morning was dedicated to normal maintenance coming due per our Wheelhouse software – checking the A/C and water maker strainers, installing a new charcoal filter for the water maker, cleaning the air handler filters, cleaning the forward thruster compartment and routine checks on the thrusters themselves.  And after running the dishwasher and doing some laundry Chelle reloaded our water tanks in preparation for the next day’s departure.

That evening we were joined by Ron and Mercedes for an extended happy hour aboard Ghost Rider.  We hadn’t seen them since passing through here on our way north back in July and we enjoyed catching up with them once again.  Both their boats (the 51 Jeanneau sailboat and the Nordhavn 47) had survived Florence and Michael without any damage, so that was worth toasting. 
Mercedes, Rick and Ron Making Toasts Aboard Ghost Rider in Charleston
We got back underway the morning of Wednesday, 17-October, pushing off the dock at 0930 to time our departure for slack current.  Rick got Ghost Rider turned about in the tight fairway and we headed out of the marina basin and down-river towards the Atlantic Ocean once again for the run down to Edisto Island.  We had some low scattered clouds as an early morning fog was still breaking up and burning off in the 80F temperature, with a 10-15 knot breeze from the southwest helping it dissipate.  It was a smooth ride until Ghost Rider departed the protection of the harbor jetties and entered open water….at which point we got a free rodeo ride.  There were two swells varying from two to four feet at interleaved intervals plus whitecaps and wind chop, all generally angled on the nose as we maintained a southwesterly course, paralleling the shoreline anywhere from four to eight miles out. 
Getting a Little Bouncy....the Bow Would Go Way Up....
And Eventually the Bow Would Come Back Down....Occasionally with a Bang
Ghost Rider handled it all well, with the bulbous bow only very occasionally announcing it was still attached with its distinctive re-entry bang.  We were also punching into an oncoming tidal current, so speed was down around 7 knots.  It was only a 50 mile ride to Paul and DeeDee’s house down in Edisto, so we weren’t in any particular hurry and left the throttle at a loping 1420 RPM.  

By early afternoon the winds and seas had subsided some and the ride improved to a mild hobby horse.  (Short video segment HERE.)  As we neared the entrance to the Edisto River we also picked up a helping current and rode that in to more protected waters.  By the time we were snaking our way up the Pierre Creek river branch to Paul and DeeDee’s place, we were also benefitting from a high (six foot) tide, leaving plenty of water under the keel all the way to their dock.
Ghost Rider at the Best Marina in South Carolina....Paul & Dee Dee's Place

By 1630 we were securely tied up with Paul's help; by 1730 had Ghost Rider washed down and post-flighted; and shortly after that were settled in up at the house with drinks and dinner...Dee Dee is an excellent cook and the roasted chicken was delicious.

The predicted cold front passed through the area overnight and the morning of Thursday, 18-October was considerably cooler, drier and breezier.  The low 60’s felt refreshing.  We had a lazy morning catching up on email, news and MLB scores, and sorting through all the packages that were waiting on us here.  Then shortly after lunch we all piled into Paul’s fishing skiff and went touring the local area’s rivers and streams.  It was jacket weather again, but still pleasant and comfortable.

Later that evening we drove over to Edisto Island’s beach front area for dinner at “Ella & Ollie’s” where the shrimp and oysters (locally caught), pork chops and steaks were quite good.  We followed that with watching the final game of the ALCS (congrats to our Red Sox!) back at Paul and Dee Dee’s while sipping on good wine and liquor.  It was, overall, a great day.

On Friday, 19-October we awoke to more cool and refreshing weather and enjoyed a fairly lazy day.  Paul and Rick tended to some home and boat chores, including preps for Ghost Rider’s departure the next day, while Dee Dee and Chelle headed off in the car to tour some of the local plantation properties.  We finished the day with pizza and another MLB playoff game.  Next up:  the weather and sea conditions look good enough to resume our journey south, so we’ll be chugging down towards Hilton Head, St. Simon’s, Cumberland and St. Augustine over the next week or so.

** Footnote on the Battery Charging Issue

In noodling the battery charging conundrum, we already knew Ghost Rider’s twin 130 amp alternators (combined to produce a theoretical 260 amps of output) were inadequate for the size of the house battery bank.  After disconnecting from either shore power or generator output and then depending only on the engine-driven alternators we would always experience a very gradual bleed of the charge state, losing about .1% (one-tenth-of-one-percent) every two hours.  Our house battery bank should have an alternator setup that puts out 350 amps (25% of the battery bank’s total amp hour capacity) to compensate for efficiency and heat losses in the alternator’s rated output.  And even these continuous duty units can’t sustain maximum output for very long without heating up and shortening their lifespans.

Nevertheless, that did not explain what occurred the morning we departed from River Dunes, where we bled off several whole percentage points of capacity in less than 30 minutes.  One possible (self-inflicted) contributing factor was that the parallel charging switch for the wing/generator start battery was in the “on” position, but that could not explain the heavy apparent drain all by itself.  After testing the charge rate several times with each of the two battery chargers onboard Ghost Rider, we observed the same behavior – a charge rate less than one amp while the Linkpro read only 98.4%.  That charge rate – actually anything below .5% of the battery bank’s total amp hour capacity, which for ours would be 7 amps – indicated that both chargers and the batteries considered the batteries were at a full charge state.  Since we didn’t think it likely both chargers would go whacky at the same time, and the house batts were only two years old, we surmised the Linkpro gauge's computer had gotten out of sync.  So we reset (resynchronized) the gauge back to 100% to test that theory over the next few days.  We've had no issues since, but it will require further monitoring.

Touring the Creeks and Rivers in the Edisto Area
One of the Many Historic Homes Around Edisto, SC....This One Still Belongs to the Middleton Family, Whose Family
Tree Includes a Governor of South Carolina and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Our Track from River Dunes in Oriental, NC, to Charleston, SC, to Edisto Island, SC

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