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

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