Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Back in the USA

I finally turned the corner at Grand Bahama Island yesterday and the winds picked up. Before you knew it I was in the Gulf Stream doing 9 knots on my way back to the United States. Unfortunately the weather forecast was for the wind to turn to the North. This meant that I had to get across the Stream. I decided to head for Ft. Pierce as it was the only Class "A" inlet that had a place to dock after dark. (Port Canaveral is a Class A inlet - in fact a big cruise ship port - but there are no places to stop at night - the lock is closed until 6AM.

When I got about 10 miles from Ft. Pierce I realized it was going to be a major battle to get in the inlet. Winds were about 15 knots, seas about 3 feet, and a big current coming out of the inlet to sea. I still don't trust my fuel. I discussed options with Towboat US and they suggested they come out and tow me in rather than have to come and pick me off the break wall. (In fact, this inlet gets so bad that a SeaTow tow boat and tow were thrown up on the rocks a year or two ago.)

I got towed in without incident and placed gently at the fuel dock at Harbortown Marina. I went on shore and had a sandwich and settled down for the night. My plan for today is to start heading up the ICW toward Jacksonville.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Off Freeport - sort of

December 28, 2014 08:09 UTC
Atlantic Ocean, approximately 26 NM Southeast of Freeport, Bahamas
(I am finally close enough to Freeport that I can see the light pollution on the horizon)
N 26 14.379 W 078 21.271 Course 315 Speed 2.2 knots

Yes, we really do stay up all night every night with 30 minute cat naps all day and night. Its 3:15 AM EST and I am quite awake. Yes, it is quite boring. One can only read so much and sleep so much. I think one of the big attractions of trawlers (large powerboats with small engines and big fuel tanks. They usually have a top speed of 8 or 9 knots but the amenities’ of a “gin palace”) is the size of their fuel tanks. Since the engine is expected to run 100% of the time underway there is always ample power for computers, DVD players, etc. Lots of other reasons too, they are quite nice. A lot of sailboat cruisers “retire” to a trawler when handling the sails gets to be a bit much.

I have mentioned that I am on a route with a lot of ship traffic but that usually they pass me far enough away (2 NM) that the AIS alarm does not go off. I was cat napping (as was XO) when the alarm went off. Sure enough, another Carnival cruse ship. Once again he was going to miss me by 1 NM. That is more than enough distance but within the alarm zone I had set on my AIS. They really are pretty at night. The power generation needs just for the lights must be significant. I got a kick out of watching the “jumbotron” video display on the Lido deck. Of course it was 2 AM for the guests on board. I wondered who was watching what. It made the entire top deck of the ship look like a discothèque. Maybe it was. The process of watching it go by woke me up completely so I made some coffee and decided to write this entry.

The winds did pick up after sunset (thank you katabolic winds) so instead of drifting I am now drifting smartly. Actually I am underway at about 2 knots. One frustration is watching the “time to turn” display on my chart plotter. I am going so slowly that a change of ½ knot can result in a time to destination difference of several hours. I have about 26 NM to go to the turn that will take me Northwest and into the Gulf Stream. At various times today the time to turn has been 60 hours, 30 hours, and now 16 ½ hours. It can be very depressing when the time goes way up as the boat slows way down.

Still no sign of the 10 to 15 knot winds forecast (for the last two days) by NOAA (the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.) Usually they are pretty good but they have been quite off the last couple of days. So apparently have most of the other “wind and wave” web sites. Since everyone uses the same six weather models this suggests that the models are off. The best data are live ship observations. Unfortunately you need very expensive electronics that I do not have to get that data in real time. The best I can do is to get it relayed from shore.

On a sailboat you go where the wind lets you go…

Fair winds and following seas J

Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 27th, 2014 Off Freeport, Bahamas

December 27, 2014 22:04 UTC
Bahamas, about 34 miles south of the Grand Bahama Island airport
N 26 03981 W 078 04.088 Course 297 Speed 0.0 (naught, nil, none, zilch, zero, etc.)

Since I wrote this morning it has been a long and frustrating day. For me (not for XO who continues his sleep, eat, demand attention, get petted, eliminate routine unchanged.) The synoptic forecast for today is winds from the East at 10 to 15 knots. Perfect for a fast trip to the United States. The actual local weather has been winds from the East at 1 to 3 knots. The boat speed peaked at 2.9 knots for one brief shining moment (that was known as Camelot.) Most of the day it has been between 0.5 and 1.0 knots. I am reminded of two movies: Master and Commander (the scene where they are totally becalmed on a glass ocean) and Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Why, you ask? Because of the scene with the quote “I will taunt you unmercifully.” I can occasionally see wind on the water around Reboot  but by the time it reaches me, or I reach it, it has gone away.

I have tried a little bit of everything including heading slightly upwind (what little there is) to see if I can get the boat speed (what little there is) to generate additional apparent wind. It works for short periods of time but only gives me a 0.25 knot boost before it dies. Since upwind is also off course it doesn’t seem to be a good strategy.

The one thing I have not done is put up all the sails. I have two reasons. First, putting up the main downwind only blankets the jib - only one of the two sails really contributes. Since I have a pretty big masthead jib the additional sail area of the main isn’t going to make much of a difference. Second is the synoptic forecast. If I do get everything up and the winds fills in quickly to the forecast I am going to be greatly over sailed. My attitude is little potential gain for some potential of a big mess. I have left things as they are.

The wind is so light that when I try to tack I have to carry the jib sheets from one side to the other. The sheets are heavy enough that the sail can not pull them to the other side.

We are now approaching katabatic time. The katabatic winds are better know as sea breezes and shore breezes caused by the differential heading and cooling rate of the land and sea. At sunrise and sunset the winds always shift. Normally you get a period of calm before the day or night winds settle in. I am crossing my fingers that tonight the winds will be much stronger than today.

Fair winds and following seas J

Saturday, December 27, 2014

GPS and AIS

GPS & AIS
December 27, 2014 10:39 UTC
Bahamas - about 75 NM north of Nassau
N 25 55.073 W 077 42.645 Course 292T Speed 2.5 knots

On Christmas Day in Nassau, Bahamas I had a long conversation with Bill (KI4MMZ) about the upcoming weather patterns. I had considered going to the Junkanoo festival and staying over until the 27th. The festival starts at 1 AM and runs all night. That suggests a departure in the morning is not wise.

December 26th is Boxer Day in the Bahamas. I got everything ready for a high tide departure. There is a bar that runs across the center of Nassau Harbor. When one leaves the marina and wants to exit through the west channel one has to cross the bar. I can do that very comfortably at high tide, not so much at low tide. I set off for the fuel dock only to discover it was closed for the holiday. In fact both fuel docks near the marina were closed. I decided that rather than turn around I would go with the fuel on board. (I had a difficult time getting out of the slip, a very large charter boat had pulled in next to me and the winds were adverse.)

At about 1600 UTC I cleared Nassau harbor and set sail almost due North. The winds were light (the story of this trip: to little, to much, wrong direction!) Making haste slowly I bobbed my way North.

Commercial ship traffic and cruise liners coming from the United States all use the same route that I had plotted. So do most pleasure boats although they do have other alternatives. As a consequence I have been passed by a number of large ships all day and night. It once again reminded me of the value of transmit/receive AIS, I joke a lot about Carnival Cruise Line ships. I equate them to the battle cruiser in Spaceballs with its sign “we brake for nobody.” After a long night (its almost dawn) of seeing many targets but none of them getting close my AIS collision warning alarm went off. Would you not guess, it was the Carnival Ecstasy! Closest point of approach (CPA) was 1.0 NM. I watched as she passed down my starboard side at 1.0 NM. My attention was then redirected to the ship behind, an MSC tanker. It too had tripped the alarms with a CPA of 0.8 NM. As I was watching the MSC tanker I realized that the Ecstasy had turned behind me. It had obviously altered it course to avoid me. The MSC tanker passed me at 0.8 NM. It is quite a show when a 900 ft long ship passes you at 17 knots in the dark.

This brings me to marine electronics. Reboot has quite a few, most even work most of the time. If I was outfitting a boat on a limited budget my first two purchases would be a GPS and a transmit/receive AIS. The GPS because the most important thing is to know where you are and with charts and a GPS that can be covered (yes, a chart plotter would be much nicer but more expensive.) The transmit capable AIS because it tells other ships where you are. Instead of having to get out of their way, they get out of your way. In light air such as I have been experiencing most of this trip it is virtually impossible to get out of the way in any significant way. Moving at 1 or 2 knots with a big ship bearing down on you is not a comfortable solution. Even if one starts the engine you are still going pretty slowly compared to the commercial vessels. When they see you on their AIS they make very minor course corrections and pass you without incident. It appears that 1.0 NM is the courtesy distance. Yes, a receive only AIS tells you they are there. But then you either have to contact them by radio or bear the burden of not being sure if they have seen you. IMHO of limited value. BTW, you might ask about radar. It turns out that sailboats are almost invisiable on big ship radar even with reflectors in the rigging. That is why a transmit AIS is so much better.

Fair winds and following seas J

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Present To You

I have always enjoyed flash mobs. Here is my Christmas flash mob for you:

Merry Christmas!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Christmas Eve in Nassau

December 25, 2014 Christmas Day
Nassau Harbor Club Marina and Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas

I made it safely into Nassau, Bahamas on December 23rd and tied up at the Nassau Harbor Club. I have been in this marina before and was surprised to be remembered by the staff. After many days of being offshore it was nice to be on land for a rest,

I did the checking in formalities and then headed down to Captain Andy’s, formerly Crazy Johnnies. No longer Captain Andy’s it is now Volume - a music club. It was closed but I did speak to one of the staff - Tom - who send me down to The Poop Deck restaurant. It is only another 200 meters or so down the road. Not realizing how dehydrated I was I quickly drank four beers and then said to the bartender - I had better switch to water! He said OK and watched as I quickly drank four glasses of water. I explained that I had just come in on a boat. I had a nice dinner although like all things in the Bahamas expensive and headed back to Volume. The club was actually closed but they let me in and I had a very nice long conversation with the new owner. He mentioned that they would be open on Christmas Eve. That gave me a destination as everything else was pretty much going to be closed.

Christmas Eve was a Wednesday. Under the previous two owners Wednesday night has always been Karaoke night. “Q”, the new owner, had decided to continue the tradition. The big change was the music. The venue had always been a rock club, under the new management it had become a hip hop club. The people were still very friendly. The Karaoke was the same. The same people who could not do rock were now not doing hip hop well with the occasional injection of someone who was actually good. Most of the people who work at the club are also aspiring musicians so they all took a turn. Perhaps the funniest performance was by McKinsey, a white bartender. He performed a rap that required the use of the “N” word. Whenever he would reach that word he would swallow it and every black person in the bar would shout it out and then start laughing. I felt very comfortable and safe and had a very nice time although if you had suggest I spend Christmas Eve in a hip hop club I would have probably passed on the opportunity.

I spent a quiet Christmas Day on the boat in the marina. It was nice to just continue to unwind.

Fair winds and following seas J

Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22, 2014 Hitting the Wall

The last time this happened to me was when I arrived in Portugal after soloing across the Atlantic Ocean. I had left the Azores on my way to Ireland. The entire trip the winds had been adverse so eventually I abandoned trying to get to Ireland and headed for Portugal. When I was a few miles offshore the engine quit. I entered Cascasi harbor in 35 knot winds and dropped anchor. After things calmed down I changed the fuel filters and made it into the marina. It had been 44 days since I had left the United States. I was ready to sell the boat and fly home. After a couple of days ashore I calmed down and went back to cruising. That was two years ago.

After several days of bobbing around trying to get south of Rum Cay I finally decided to turn on the engine. Within seconds after engine start the exhaust filled with heavy white smoke and there was no power. I spent the next couple of hours changing the fuel filters, always a joy at sea. Not being sure that the engine was OK I altered course and passed west of Rum Cay (and east of Long Island.) At that point the wind picked up dramatically from the Southeast - exactly the direction I was trying to go. I started doing short tacks with a double reefed main and a small section of the jib. I was clearly overpowered but in a bind. If I dropped the main I would not be able to point high enough. The batteries were dropping quickly as the electric autopilot tried to maintain course with the wheel over almost at lock. I tried shifting to the vane but could not get it working. Not being sure of the engine (to produce power I decided it was time to drop the jib and head downwind. This of course mean I was giving up all of the distance I had struggled to make over the last two days.

Everything calmed down - not a lot but enough that I knew that Reboot was back under control. Dawn came a couple of hours later. I discovered that the reason I could not get the vane to work is that I had failed to put the in-water vane down. I realized I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. Checking the weather forecast I discovered that I would be heading directly into strong winds for the next couple of days. I decided that I did not want to spend Christmas fighting the ocean. In fact, I was not sure that I wanted to continue on to Jamaica at all. I had once again “hit the wall.”

I headed up to Nassau, Bahamas and after another couple of days made it into port. For the first several hours my legs were tingling - I don’t know if it was because of the reduction in stress or just having been afloat for so long. I decided that in my emotional state the smartest thing would be to stay in Nassau until I got a good weather window and then head back to the United States to regroup. So that is the plan.

Fair winds and following seas J

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday. December 21, 2014 1028 UTC

Sunday. December 21, 2014  1028 UTC
Atlantic Ocean about 38 NM North of Rum Cay (Bahamas)
N 24 24.947 W 074 54.253  Course 200 Speed 1.1 knots

Welcome to Winter. Today is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year. This is a day beloved by solar panel users everywhere as for the next 6 months the days get longer and the solar panels generate more power. As I have traveled South the days have become a few minutes longer but not really enough to disturb the routine. A standing joke is “cruisers midnight.” The classic definition is 8 PM. What it really speaks to is the fact that cruisers live by the sun. Once it gets dark its time to go to bed, once the sun comes up its time to get up. It also speaks to the fact that most cruisers are in the 50’s through 70’s and don’t go out clubbing a lot at night.

When I left Cape Fear I left behind the cold weather. The water is in the mid 70’s. The boat is warm, yesterday it was 80 inside the cabin.  Quite a change from last year when I was in New Bern, NC with minor medical problems and the nights were already getting cold. Had I known then what I know now I would have set sail from New Bern in January. As it was I sat out a cold winter with occasional snow in the cockpit.

I grew up in the Northeast. My images of December are chilly days with a fireplace and a warm companion (not to discount Christmas and New Years.) Now that it has gotten warmer XO (the Wonder Cat) has been decidedly less cuddly at night. In the past he would scrunch his body as close to mine as possible for warmth. Now its just two forepaws on my arm to establish ownership and dominance.

I finally got some decent winds from the East yesterday and got in a good 12 hours of brisk sailing in the right direction. About two hours ago the wind shifted 90 degrees to the South. I went up to see what was happening and was greeted by a mist. I tried various sail configurations to no avail. The wind has died back into the 4 to 5 knot range. I am currently making my way south slowly while waiting for the wind to fill back in from the East as is forecast.

One thing I did not expect on this trip was all of this light air. I have been in some pretty scary weather: off Miquelon Island and soloing the Atlantic to Portugal. The only other time I have had sustained light winds was also in the Bahamas. Then I was in Exuma Sound surrounded by islands. Now I am in the open ocean with 3000 miles of water to the East. Coming on top of the severe weather that kept me in Norfolk for several weeks this is quite shock. I am reminded of the doldrums scene in Master and Commander.

Fair winds and following seas J

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sail Choices Friday, December 19, 2014 1335 UTC

Friday, December 19, 2014 1335 UTC
About 120 NM East of the Bahamas Bank, 280 NM North of Long Island, Bahamas
N 26 47.725 W 07455.014 Course 180 Speed 0.9

Bobbing around again in very light air. I am in a convergence zone and until it shifts or I drift out of it winds are going to be very light. I could not hold course last night so I motored for about 8 hours. This has taken the fuel gauge off the “full” peg. I still have quite a bit of fuel in the main tank and 15 gallons on deck but prudence in the use of fuel is always wise. At least this time I am bobbing in the right direction (South.)

I was reminded this morning of the problem of choosing the right sail configuration. When the sun came up I stopped motoring and put up the jib. With the wind this light I should have also put up the main or even better dropped the jib and put up the asymmetric. The problem was that the sky was overcast and black. It takes about 15 minutes to put up the main, maybe 25 minutes to put up the asymmetric. Taking down the main takes about 10 minutes before the sail is stowed enough that it is not providing power. The question: do I put up more sail and risk that the wind will rise suddenly? Or do I bob smartly on the sail I have? I chose to bob smartly (reef early, reef often) and was rewarded (?) by the winds rising to 20 knots and a rainstorm. I had to furl the jib a bit in the rain. The storm passed and then - you guessed it - no wind at all. I am no longer bobbing smartly, I am just bobbing. Once the weather burns off and the wind reestablishes itself I will be able to put up a sail that can catch the wind rather than just flapping around killing itself.

With crew it would not be quite so difficult. With a second person to help with the sail changes the time goes down. Also, with someone actively steering they can help get the sails down quickly by stalling the boat in the “no go zone,” or as we traditionalists like to call it “in irons.” It gives one a real appreciation for the people who do the around the world alone race. Their boats are about 20 feet longer so every sail change takes far more energy. Plus they are racing so they are always trying to keep the maximum amount of sail up for every condition.

Fair winds and following seas J

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 17, 2014 2200 UTC

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 2200 UTC
Atlantic Ocean - 336 NM East of Flagler Beach, FL (Hi  Bill) 535 NM North of the Windward Gap.
N 29 28.689 W 074 59.136 Course 180 Speed 4.8

Happy Birthday to Andrea. Wish I was on Tenerife with you to celebrate!

The last 36 hours have been long and tiring. Mother Nature (or Neptune) decided to show me what she had. Yesterday morning the wind finally started to pick up. Unfortunately it was blowing from the Southwest. Since I am trying to go due South this meant that I had to go close hauled (up wind) all day. In order to get Reboot to point high enough I put in a double reefed main in addition to the jib. Going upwind usually means you are also going into the waves and yesterday was no exception. It also means that the wind speed over the boat is the boat speed plus the true wind speed. As time wore on the wind continued to pick up. I continued to furl more and more of the jib. The waves also continued to build. In the early evening the true wind speed was exceeding 30 knots and the wave height was about 8 feet. Even the double reefed main was too much sail. Reboot was literally going airborne off the tops of the waves. Considering she weights 11 tons that is saying something!

The only way to get the main down is to head into the wind and stall the boat. At this point she is pitching up and down in 8 foot waves. It also requires going up onto the foredeck. Even with a harness, life jacket, and tether that is not much fun. I got about 2/3 of the main dropped before Reboot simply refused to stay headed up in the wind. As I fell off the remaining main caught the wind and off we went, fortunately at a reasonable 6 to 7 knots. At this point I was still on course but being hit by 8 foot waves on the beam. Reboot was rolling 30 to 40 degrees from side to side. I noticed that the vane steering cables have become undone. Nothing was steering, just the waves pushing and the main pulling was keeping us on course.

Once when talking to Ed (Hooligan) about getting ready for sea he said jokingly “I just go, Everything finds its place after a day or two.” You can imagine that everything that was not tied down found its place on the deck sliding from side to side.

I realized that this was not going to work so I pointed the stern at the oncoming waves and started the sleigh ride (it being Christmas season and all.) Reboot stopped rolling and I was able to retie the Monitor steering cables. But once again I was not headed in the direction I wanted to go. Unlike yesterday when it was benign and I was drifting I was going the wrong way very fast. The good news was that I was able to stabilize my course due East. In the Caribbean, since the prevailing winds are from the East, one can never be too far East. I was reminded of the old Navy saying “in the event of a nuclear explosion point your ass to the blast and run like hell.” In the end I made about 60 NM due East. That was of course off course.

In the middle of the night I looked over at the voltmeters and realized I was quite low on battery power. Since it was critical to keep the AIS and navigation lights running I fired up Mother Yanmar and let her charge the batteries for about 4 hours. This morning I disconnected the second wire from the broken solar panel. I am hoping that there was some kind a a short that was dropping the batteries. We will see.

After a long and sleepless night the dawn finally came and I was able to see both the sails and the seas. They were still in the 7 to 8 foot range and the main was plastered against the spreaders. The winds had started to moderate to about 25 knots. I checked in on the Waterway Ham Radio net and was told that the winds should shift to the Northwest and the waves moderate over the course of the day. And so they did. I was able to go upwind and get the remainder of the main sail stowed around noontime. By sunset I was headed back due South with a moderate following sea and wind off the starboard beam. I even enjoyed watching the sunset. Of course I didn’t enjoy picking everything up off the floor.

As I write this after a very tiring 36 hours I finally have …….

Fair winds and following seas J

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday,  December 15, 2014
Atlantic Ocean - about 250 miles east of the Florida - Georgia Border
N31 06.3  W 077 03.1 Course 165 Speed 0.5

I spent Saturday morning in Masonboro replacing the bow light. At some level it was a victory as I did not drop any tools or pasts into the water. It was a total fail as when I switched on the power no bow light. There is a broken wire buried somewhere. Replacing the light was necessary, the previous light was completely corroded. I had repaired it a number of times but this time the light bulb was completely corroded into the socket. Rather than fooling with it further I decided to get underway. When I sail I use the tricolor on the mast so the only limitation of the non-functional bow light is that I can’t motor at night.

Left Masonboro Yacht Club midday on Saturday 13 December. Headed down the ICW to Carolina Beach for fuel. Filled tanks, was $75. I can remember when this was a $25 evolution. Went through the Carolina Cut in adverse current and out into the Cape Fear River. Motored down the river as the tide turned, got an excellent push from the current all the way down.

Thought about spending the night in Southport and leaving for offshore the next day. As I approached the turn to the ICW I decided against it. I figured that there was no point, I was just delaying the inevitable for another cold 12 or so hours. Yes, when I have not been offshore for some period of time I am nervous about going back out. Out I went into the setting sun.

Set up a course of about 175 to stay clear of Frying Pan Shoals. It is about 30 NM to the end of the Shoals. The east end is actually deep enough for Reboot, but I didn’t want to take any chances at the beginning of the trip (or any time, for that matter.) The wind was moderate and I was able to make a comfortable 5 to 6 knots on the jib. Since it was night I did not really want to raise the main, it is easy to furl the jib if the wind picks up at night, much harder to deal with the main. Since I was going mostly down wind adding the main would not have done much other than to blanket the jib.

I was surprised to find the wind was mainly from the West. I had been expecting light North winds. I was pleased as this meant crossing  the Gulf Stream was going to be possible. I had my equipment set up so that I could measure water temperature and even in the first few miles out it started to rise. It had been about 40 degrees in the river, it was quickly rising to 50. The air temperature was also staying at about 50 degrees.

Worked my way through the night with the water temperature rising to 72 degrees and the air temperature stabilizing at about 60 degrees. What a change from the previous few days with 32 degree nights. The waves were small, about 1 to 2 feet but quite confused.

At dawn I was at the heart of the “nominal” Gulf Stream. Water temperature was 76 degrees, air temperature was 65, I signed onto the Waterway Ham radio net. All of the land stations were talking about the previous night low temperatures - you guessed it, all in the low 30’s. I felt quite smug that I had not taken the bait and spend and expensive and cold night in Southport.

Winds were still good. I was making good time. By evening the waves started to settle down. By the morning of the 14th (Sunday) they were “training” from the North. Winds were still moderate from the West. All in all a good ride.

I did discover that my Ham radio was not holding a tune. I guessed that my failed attempt to rig a flag hoist on the backstay was causing problems. I had intended to remove it when working on the wind generator but it completely skipped my mind when we realized that the generator was a no go.

This morning the wind died. I have been bobbing around in the ocean going nowhere all day long. The waves are about 1 - 2 feet so when the boat gets a little way on - like 0.5 knots - the ride is not too bad. I took advantage of the quiet seas to further explore the backstay. I rerouted the flag halyard (its jammed or I would just have run it out of the block.)  I then flushed the backstay insulator with fresh water. It seems to be working better but only time will tell.

While standing on the helm seat I noticed that one of my solar panels was cracked. The solar panels are set up in two banks, each with its own charge controller. I had noticed that one of the two banks was not showing the “charge” light in the daytime. I wrote this off to the fact that frequently the meters on the controllers have no similarity to reality. To be sure I disconnected the cracked panel and then checked the fuses on the controller. Sure enough, the fuse on the solar panel side was blown. I replaced it and was rewarded with a yellow charging light. This is a good thing as the two panels were having trouble keeping up with the overnight load.

When traveling in late November, December and early January the days are very short. This means that the solar panels don’t have as much time to charge and the nights are long. I use halogen lights in the tricolor and anchor lights. They use a lot more power than LED lights. But I have had bad luck with the LED lights. Perhaps over time the quality of the LED’s will improve until I feel comfortable to try them again.

The good news is that I am comfortable on the boat for the first time in a couple of months. The water temperature is in the 70’s. The boat has warmed up, the seats are not long freezing cold. My back has stopped hurting from sleeping on a cold bed. I actually spent today in shorts! Quality.

Fair winds and following seas J

Friday, December 12, 2014

Masonboro Yacht Club

In Masonboro Yacht Club just south of Wrightsville Beach. This is the kind of place that always gives me pause. As one travels down the ICW there are channels leading off to the left and right to various marina facilities. Never, and I mean never, do the signs say anything about depth. So one looks at the chart and sees 2 feet, or 3 feet, with this channel. Is it deep enough? The only way to tell seems to be to go in. The channels are always too narrow to turn around. Have you ever tried to back a sailboat? The result is that I avoid them. That is a shame because some, like Masonboro, have really nice people and decent facilities. Note to marina owners. Want to increase business with a cheap fix? Put up a depth sign.

Spent Wednesday night in Mile Hammock Bay with 7 other boats. Seemed like a lot of boats for this late in the season. The manager at Masonboro told us that there are a lot of late transits. The weather (as I well know) in November was terrible. Apparently lots of other people decided to wait it out. Major fail. The temperature dropped to 32 F and was still there when we got underway at 6:30 AM. Since the sun didn't rise until 7:01 AM our first mile was under twilight conditions. A little spooky but the channel is well marked.

Second to Bogue Sound in my I hate the ICW list is the run from Mile Hammock Bay to Wrightsville Beach. The trip itself isn't particularly worse than any other part of the ICW. The problem is that there are three bridges, all of which open on schedule. Miss a bridge opening, wait an hour. It is very hard to time one's arrival as there are numerous channels leading through the marsh out to sea. One minute you are going 4 knots. Pass a channel, now you are doing 6 knots at the same RPM. First you are late, then you are early for the next bridge.

Of particular note is the Wrightsville Beach bridge. The problem here is current, very strong current. While waiting for the bridge it is not unusual to be swept down on it at 2 knots. The nearer one gets to the bridge the stronger the current. My solution is to point up current and run the engine so that my speed over ground is near zero while my speed through the water approaches 2 knots. This confuses all the other boats who are backing and turning and trying to stay in place. It is also possible to run down or be run down by another boat while maneuvering to get under the bridge. People forget that they are still making 2 knots toward the bridge even though their bow is pointed elsewhere. Not fun. We were blessed with a medium tide. That gave us a  little bit wider channel to work in. I came down once  with a pack of snow birders at dead low tide. About 6 ran aground. Four hit each other. And the bridge of course refused to open even though a whole bunch of people were in extremis.

Ed (Hooligan) has been in Masonboro a number of times so he led us in. They set aside two spots on the "T" head even though they were full. I decided to stay for two nights to warm up and finish up tying everything down to go offshore. It is tough to get motivated after freezing all day when it gets pitch black at 5 PM. If conditions remain as forecast Saturday I will head down the Cape Fear River and go offshore and south. That way I will be able to avoid freezing behind the wheel with my eye on the depth gauge all day long. I should make about twice or better the distance each day.After a couple of days hopefully I will be in warmer climes.

Fair winds and following seas :)

PS: The air temperature is 34 F as I write this.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another Marine Story

Today I left Sanitary on my way south. At the last moment Ed (Hooligan) yells "I am not going." I yell "OK." I continue down to my planned night's anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay (inside of the Marine base at Camp Lejeune.) I am listening to the marine (as in boat) VHF radio. Everyone is talking about a shoal in front of me. At the same time I am very aware that there is a brige in front of me on bridge hours (that is, they only open at a certain time.) I am gunning it to make the bridge. Wham, I hit the shoal that everyone is talking about. I bounce up, spin around, throw it in reverse, and find myself on the other side (the destination side) of the shoal. Now at some point Ed changed his mind because he has caught up to me and has been following me for several miles. He has jerked his boat around, somehow missed the shoal completely, missed Reboot, and is now alongside me. He yells "if you don't hurry up we are going to miss the bridge."

My fantasy conversation with Ed in Korea or Vietnam; both places Ed served in combat roles in the Marine Corps with distinction:

Marine: "Ed, I have a sucking chest wound, both my legs are blown off, and I can't see."

Ed: "Hurry the "F" up or we are going to miss the extraction."

In fairness to Ed, without embarrassing him further, he has some cheap metal and ribbon that he got for activities in Vietnam that involved saving lives. Enough said. I hold him in great respect and would trust him with my life.

We made it through the bridge (which requires you to be there at opening time but takes 5 minutes to open - go figure) and to Mile Hammock Bay where we are spending the night.

An aside, they have been doing artillery practice all day so we have been listening to the guns for about 6 hours. Makes one want to shout "incoming."

Fair winds and following seas :)

Bogue Sound

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...
1. You run Northwest to Southeast. Backwards! So when I travel South you make me go Northeast and vice versa.
2, Your winds are adverse. If I wanr to cross the Gulf Stream your winds will be wrong. If the winds are from the South I can avoid you and cross the stream. But if the winds are from the North and I want to continue south to wait for a better day your winds will be in my face.
3. You are wide open so I feel the full brunt of the weather and wind.
4. You are very shallow so the smallest breeze kicks up nasty waves,
5. Your channel is 100 feet wide so I am constantly on alert that you don't blow me onto the shallows.
6. You are full of nasty eddies and currents so I can't use the autopilot unless I want to run aground.
7. You are long and boring and a miserable excuse for a passage route.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Feeling Guilty

Of course during all those warm days in port when I was supposed to be working on the boat I was not. I was eating too much, drinking lots of coffee (for some reason I just am not really into alcohol these days) and chasing women (unsuccessfully of course!) Now it is cold and I am underway so I end each day tired. All of those little projects are still in front of me. There is nothing to do when I set anchor. It is December so the nights are very long and electricity is at a premium. Still, I am so bored that each day I do one of the little make life better projects I should have been doing when it was warm. Such is life.

Fair winds and following seas :)


--

CAPT Roger J. Jones USN (ret.)

Sailboat Reboot

411 Walnut Street, #9700, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043-3443

Reboot's Agent's Email: and phone Rebootagent@gmail.com (201) 925-2581

Reboot Email (in port only) rogerjohnjones@gmail.com

Reboot Phone: (414) 248-0345

Satellite Phone  (870) 776-4111-46

Web Site: www.sailboatreboot.com

Blogging: blog.sailboatreboot.com

Reboot position http://www.winlink.org/dotnet/maps/PositionReportsDetail.aspx?callsign=W2ZDB

Ham Radio: W2ZDB via Maritime Mobile Service Net 14.300 Mhz

Ham Radio Email: W2ZDB@winlink.org

 This email is sent from an infrequently monitored mailbox.  It may take several days or weeks before REBOOT and I are in port where I can receive it.  Should you have an immediate need please contact me via Reboot's agent.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sanitary and South

Came down Adams Creek yesterday morning to Morehead City. Left Oriental in fog. Discovered that the radar has decided not to work. Fortunately the visibility was still about 1 mile so I was able to see the two boats that were coming the other way. After about two hours - an hour into Adams Creek the visibility improved and the fog burned off. Reached the Core Creek Bridge at exactly high tide. Expected no current, was fighting an almost 2 knot current (adverse of course) under the bridge. This was when the only two power boats heading in my direction wanted to pass. They were very polite but the current required them to really power up (off plane) to move so the wakes were ugly.

Was planning on heading down the ditch but by the time I got to Morehead I was frozen again. I realized that my gloves were not waterproof. I had worn them handling lines in the morning and they got wet. The result was that even though the rest of my body was warm, my hands were freezing. Lesson learned. I decided to stop at Sanitary. It is beautiful - the new dock. What isn't are the prices - $1.00 per foot per night or $25 if you eat. I decided to take the eat route, had a basket of clams, and saved $3.00. Ah for the days when it was free.

I did stop at the hardware/marine supply store across the street and bought all the hand warmers in stock. Unfortunately that was only three. I now have a three day supply.

Very cold last night. Ran the propane heater all night. I had filled both propane tanks in Oriental in anticipation of going offshore. I will most likely top them off again before I go. The heater tank is also the backup for the stove. Running the heater all night only gives me about 4 days supply in that tank.

Looked at the weather buoys this morning. Days are so short in December. Was going to try a "training wheels" offshore (its been a while) from Morehead to Masonborough inlet. Weather OK near shore but would arrive after dark. So more ditch today. I expect to run to the Cape Fear River and reassess. It is annoying that I am heading Southwest when I want to be heading Southeast but I would rather be alive then dead. The offshore buoys are showing 25 knot winds gusting 30 and waves of 7 to 10 feet. I think I will wait..

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Leaving Oriental and Sailcraft

The yard period at Sailcraft didn't work out. It turned out that the new wind generator was a 24 Volt unit that could not be retrofitted to a 12 Volt unit at a reasonable cost. So all of the purchases to support the generator: pipe, wire, circuit breaker, switch, etc. Fortunatley a bunch of the stuff was from the local West Marine and I was able to return it. Still, a hit on my finances for the things that I could not return.

The offshore forecast is still not very nice so I am leaving Oriental and starting to head down the ICW. It will take about three days to get south of Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals. At that point I will look at going outside again.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Weather ALWAYS WINS

It looks like the wind generator project will get finished today. That means that if I pick up my new bow light this afternoon I am ready to go. That would be nice. But...

It would be nice if the weather would cooperate. In order to get out of here I have to cross the Gulf Stream. That means, no wind with the letter "N" in the description. Or at the very least a very low wind speed - say 10 knots or less.

This is what I get:

 GALE FORCE WINDS POSSIBLE SUN

 TODAY (as in Friday)
 NE WINDS 10 TO 20 KT. SEAS 5 TO 7 FT.

 TONIGHT
 E TO NE WINDS 10 TO 20 KT...BECOMING E 5 TO 15 KT
 LATE. SEAS 4 TO 7 FT.

 SAT
 E TO NE WINDS 5 TO 15 KT...BECOMING E TO SE 5 TO 10 KT
 LATE. SEAS 5 TO 6 FT.

 SAT NIGHT
 S TO SE WINDS LESS THAN 10 KT...BECOMING W TO SW
 LATE. SEAS 5 TO 6 FT. SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS.
(If one doesn't mind the Thunderstorms not a bad time to try and cross over. Waves a little high but very doable. Unfortunately 12 hours doesn't get me across the Stream and out of the area.)

 SUN
 N WINDS 20 TO 30 KT...INCREASING TO 35 TO 45 KT LATE.
 SEAS 5 TO 8 FT...BUILDING TO 13 TO 20 FT LATE.

 SUN NIGHT
 NE WINDS 35 TO 45 KT. SEAS 15 TO 25 FT.

 MON
 NE WINDS 25 TO 35 KT...BECOMING E 20 TO 30 KT LATE. SEAS
 17 TO 24 FT.

And on it goes. No, I can't get out and across the Gulf Stream and past the forecast area by Saturday night. Looks like I will be spending more time in Oriental.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sleeping in a bed

Yesterday I went over to the hardware store to fill the propane tank that powers my propane heater. This morning I woke up stiff and went to make a cup of coffee. I discovered that the second propane tank, the one that feeds the stove, was also empty. I knew it was low and planned on filling it before I left. Unfortunately it came up empty a couple of days early. Rather than changing tanks I headed over to the Bean for coffee and warmth. "the Bean" is a well know coffee and conversation emporium just off the Oriental public dock. You can see the harbor on the Oriental Town Dock Web Cam. As I walked I realized how once again my back was stiff and sore. I have concluded that sleeping on a cold surface (the bunk on Reboot) results in early morning back pain. I have several layers of blanket under me at night but it still doesn't keep me from early morning pain.

This led me to reflect on the last time I slept in a bed. The truth is I can't remember. Yes, I sleep in a bunk on Reboot but I am talking about a real bed in a heated room with hot showers and flush toilets. When I visit my sons I sleep on the couch. That is my choice, not theirs. The couch at Trevor's is actually quite comfortable. I think the last time was on Saba Island about two years ago. The bed was a pretty trashed hotel bed. In addition XO was with me. He could hear all of the animals around the cottage and ran and growled all night. Not a great memory. I can't remember the time before that.

Actually as I reflect I have slept in a bed since Saba. But in these cases it was associated with getting off Reboot because of severe weather. Not particularly a great mood for a good night's sleep.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Position Reports Problem

I have been posting (or my great shore staff has been posting) my position on Winlink. However in checking my website www.sailboatreboot.com I notice that the map is not being updated. I presume this is a problem with their web site and that it will be rectified soon. In the meantime I will continue to post my lat/long here.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Oriental, NC

Oriental Inn and Marina
Currently in Oriental, NC 35.0311° N, 76.6878° W at about noon. Re-acquainted myself with Tom and the Oriental Inn and Marina. Sitting at the town dock, with plans to go over to Sailcraft Yard on Thursday to get a bit of work done. Left Elizabeth City on a beautiful warm day. Made it as far as Hobucken and R.E. Mayo. This morning I left with Willaim Reed to Oriental. On the way out of the canal we were hit by beam seas and wind. It wan't all that bad but with the air temperature at 50 degrees it was far from pleasant. Made it around the corner and headed up the Neuse River with a following sea..It was still unpleasant but more comfortable. Tomorrow XO gets his rabies shot and checkup before we leave the US. Plan is also to drive down to Morehead City to check Reboot out of the United States. Thursday into Sailcraft to get the wind generator pole welded and then I should be good to go.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Marine Directory Asia - A useful resource

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