Monday, September 27, 2010

White Pepper's New Look

White Pepper has been back in the water for several weeks now. It has been a slow process getting her back into cruising shape after two years on the hard at Deltaville Boatyard. She did not sit idly as a lot of effort and money has gone into maintenance and upgrades. In addition to an all new and improved muffler and exhaust system, she has an all new aluminum and larger fuel tank. On the deck there are all new hatches and the side windows were replaced with six opening ports from New Found Metals. What a delight to lay in a warm dry bunk listening to the rain patter down on the deck without a drip or drop coming in anywhere! Also Jan and I have worked steadily at getting all of the systems back on line and functioning after years of just sitting. The compass had to be sent back for refurbishing, the life raft serviced, some old batteries replaced. The faithful dingyHabanero needed to be patched and the Yamaha motor coaxed back to life.

However, the really new thing was putting a Solar Stik on the stern. A Solar Stik is a simple idea of solar power and wind power, but presented in a slick high tech package. The mounting is a fully gimbaled aluminum pole that only weighs 80 pounds all up. The panels are small but powerful. Rather than rely on size they use the fact that they can easily be oriented perpendicular to the sun in an exposed manner.
I thought that the idea was too good to pass up. After all, our last trip to the Bahamas nearly came to grief because of battery issues. I had done lots of research and seen many pictures and reviews. Imagine my surprise when the unit showed up with serial number of 100156. I doubt that the company has sold over a million of these expensive units. And since the technicians at DBY had never seen one before, I am left with the conclusion that this is installation #156. The staff here at Deltaville Boatyard struggled with the complexities of a one off, first of its kind but finally ended with with an excellent installation. As usual for a boat the install was more expensive than the equipment.

Finally we were ready for a shakedown cruise. Jan and I went just across the Piankatank River to Gywnn Island and Milford Haven. Gywnn Island is remembered in history as the last hold out of royal Virginia's Governor Dinsmore who moved here after the sack of Norfolk. This was the start of the Revolutionary War. Eventually, Dinsmore was shelled or starved out and left for England. Gywnn Island has had a storied history of boat building and water activities since. Today it looks a bit dilapidated. Milford Haven is an exposed anchorage which was just what we wanted to test out the Air Breeze generator. The solar panels are labelled BP but are made in China. As planned the two together in full sunlight with a brisk breeze will fully carry the 24 load of the freezer and lights. If there is calm or clouds, we have to turn on the motor or generator.

This past week end son-in-law Pat Robinson came for the week end and we all sailed up to Reedsville to revisit some of the old sites of our last cruise in 2008 there. We had a delightful time and brisk sail back.

The pictures are of Mike installing the wind generator on top of the Solar Stik, a striking sunrise on Milford Haven, the "new" White Pepper lying at anchor behind Gywnn Island, and Pat helping on the foredeck

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whilton Creek and Hurricane Earl

White Pepper is back in the water after nearly 2 years on the hard at Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, VA. Within a day or so of arriving on the boat warnings about Hurricane Earl began in earnest. The boatyard urged us to pull the boat back out, but we couldn't stand to be away from the boat after so much anticipation. A local told us of a perfect hurricane hole about 5 miles further up the Piankitank River--Whilton's Creek. A check of the cruising guide and a look at the chart confirmed its suitability. We took off Thursday morning not even bothering to bend on sails. We motored up slowly up the creek. It is about 200 feet wide with 20 to 30 foot banks topped with 100 foot tall pine trees. No wind was going to get in here! After a mile and half the depth (at low tide) dropped from 10 feet to 6 feet so we picked a nice wide spot and dropped the 45 pound claw in thick muck.

Hurricane Earl turned out to be another Weather Channel bust staying well offshore. On Friday morning winds topped out at 20 knots with light rain. It was all clear by noon and so still that Jan and I could bend on the roller furling 135% genoa and fully battened main with less difficulty than usual. We stayed until Saturday which was Labor Day Sat. As usual the day after the hurricane was sparkling with a brisk, dry, warm wind from the west. We sailed down the Piankitank and out into the Chesapeake Bay. The Fishing Bay Yacht Club was having their Labor Day Regatta with about 30 yachts reveling in the brisk breeze but flat water. The day was so lovely we just kept sailing north until the sun started to set. By 6 pm we were off the mouth of the Great Wicomico River, and we headed in. This was the first time in my life that I have sailed where the wind took me without any plans.

Alert readers will remember the Great Wicomico from 2008. White Pepper made stops there at Reedsville going north and then Mills Creek when headed south. This time we headed further up the river and dropped anchor at a wide spot in the river called Sandy Cove. On Sunday Jan finished patching Habanero with three large patches and I tightened up one of the valves. The repairs held and our dingy is seaworthy again. It was a great feeling and quite a confidence builder to know that we can repair the dingy ourselves on board.

Labor Day was yet another sparkler. The wind had come around to the usual SE and was quite puffy. It fact, the official weather forecast was for 5 knot winds gusting to 20. I had never heard that particular wind range before. This made Deltaville a long one sided beat, but the water was flat and the day so beautiful that the sail was a delight. We were thrilled with the performance of the boat. Despite all of the cruising gear and weight added, she can still beat to weather like a champion.

By evening we were tied back up at the dock. We are waiting for the boatyard to install a Solar Stik as a last modification prior to heading out. The Solar Stik will hold two solar panels in a gimbelled arrangement and also hold a small wind generator. Hopefully, this will solve the chronic power problems that plagued us so badly the last time out.

As a final irony after dodging Hurricane Earl in the Chesapeake area we heard that TS Hermine was headed for south Texas. The eye would soon roll right over our home in Beeville.