Thursday, May 26, 2016

Isle of Hope, GA to Oriental, NC

Sometimes, rarely, the weather turns out better than predicted. Such was the situation as White Pepper traveled 240 n. miles from the Isle of Hope Marina on the outskirts of Savannah, GA to Oriental, NC via the offshore route.

White Pepper had been confined to the low country of Georgia by an unusual series of low pressure centers that had ejected off of Cape Hatteras. Each trailed off a cold front that brought lovely cool and dry air into Georgia. We loved the unseasonably (for late May) cool air, but the north wind kept us in the intracoastal canal. Jan and I spent 3 delightful days at the Isle of Hope Marina. The Isle of Hope is a district of Savannah, GA that reached its zenith in the early 20th century as a summer getaway for Savannah. It retains an air of gentile living with many fine old homes.
Isle of Hope Home

Finally, a window of high pressure opened off the SE Atlantic Coast. Light winds were forecast offshore, but the high pressure would ward off the thunderstorms which plague the Georgia and Carolina coast at this time of year. We left late in the morning to let some north wind clock around and also to catch the ebb on the Savannah River. Maybe the winds offshore were light, but by noon Tuesday the sea breeze had set in fiercely as White Pepper was swept down the Savannah River, past Tybee Island, and into Tybee Roads. In the Atlantic the winds were brisk as White Pepper set off on a full power reach up the coast. Both the main and genoa had reefs. The sea breeze lasted until 3 am and swept us quickly passed Charleston. We motored for the next 10 hours during a lovely moonlit night, sunrise, and morning. Late in the morning Wednesday Jan caught a 10 pound little tunny. The rig was a cedar plug and red skirt. We were trolling at 7.5 knots. The fish provider 4 delicious meals.

Wednesday's sea breeze was much lighter for some reason. However, White Pepper did reach the Frying Pan Shoals off of Cape Fear by sunset. From there we squared into a run northeast in a light southerly breeze towards Morehead City. It was slow going until 5 am when I fired up the iron genoa. We arrived at the Morehead City about noon and then motored to Oriental on the Neuce River. The day was breathtakingly beautiful with clear skies, dry and warm air, and brisk wind.
The Morehead City bridge is well known to ICW traveler.

We arrived at Oriental, NC about 4:30 pm and anchored off the breakwater. This spot brought back many old memories from previous trips to Oriental which are all well chronicled in archived posts of this blog. What is not available in old posts is the loss of our good friend, Bruce Ray, who hung out with us while we were here last. Also different is the remarkable upgrade in the power of the new inboard engine and outboard motor. These had been definitely problems on previous visits to Oriental.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

St. Simon Island

In 1834 during his tour of North American James Audubon was sailing to St. Augustine. The winds turned adverse, and his ship was forced ashore at St. Simon Island, Georgia. He was taken to the Retreat Plantation owned by Mr. Thomas Butler King. There he was wined, dined and so charmed that he later wrote “he fairly thought that he had been blown onto a fairy island such as only existed in romance and fiction.”

A similar thing happened to White Pepper 182 years later. We, however, were sailing north from Port Canaveral to Charleston. We had left on an ideal weather forecast for 3 days; however, the forecast changed quickly. We had to get off the Atlantic. St. Simon inlet was available by dawn of day three offshore.
The trip from the sea buoy is a remarkable 11 miles, but eventually the famous lighthouse (rebuilt in 1874) came into view. White Pepper turned north into the Frederica River and very soon came to the Morning Star Marina. Our gracious hosts made room for us as many boats were flocking in. Within an hour of docking there was a tremendous thunderstorm. It then rained all day and night.

The STS or St. Simon sea buoy a remarkable 11 miles offshore.

 Morning Star Marina on the Frederica River. White Pepper is in the center.

The next day dawned cloudy, turbulent, and unseasonably cool. But the rain held off. Jan and I borrowed bicycles from the marina and biked into the village of St. Simon. Here on the very land once called the Retreat Plantation we saw a lush golf course, lovely homes and a tourist village. There were the usual art shops, tee shirt shops and wonderful restaurants. There was a public park and fishing pier surrounding the old lighthouse and lighthouse keepers house. Old master King would probably have been horrified at what had happened to his plantation, but I suspect Audubon would have been pleased.

The rebuilt lighthouse on St. Simon (1876)

White Pepper could not get to Fort Frederica on the northern part of St. Simon Island. There the British general Oglethorpe held off an attack by the Florida Spanish in 1744. These were the Spanish from the fort Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine where White Pepper has visited several times. Instead we returned to the marina and took the courtesy car to Brunswick. There we resupplied and planned the trip north.

The weather forecast remains unsettled for several days with northerly winds and high waves forecast. Rather than go outside we will venture up the ICW and experience the creeks of Georgia.

Friday, May 13, 2016

OMG! Is that a boarding ladder or a work of art?

New stainless steel boarding ladder.  Note the widened gateway.

First a crack and then a kerplunk as I felt back into the dingy.  Initially I was angry thinking that I had slipped off the ladder, but immediately I saw that the ladder had broken.  Now I was bit frightened.  If this accident had happened in open water and I had not been lucky enough to land in the dingy, I might have been in serious trouble.  I would never have been able to climb back on board  White Pepper without assistance.  Jan would have had to rig up a block and tackle to hoist me up.  It was now instantly clear to me that a boarding ladder or so called swim ladder is a safety device, not a convenience.  We finished the season using the Defender step fender.  If I had to go in the water I had to get out of and then into the dingy.

The ladder had wood rot where the screws attached the rung.  I had never even thought to seal or ever reseal these screws.  Now the ladder was beyond repair.  My initial thought was to replace it since the attachments were still there.  However, this wooden folding ladder in no long made, possibly because it was not reliable (?)

I had heard of Mystic Stainless Steel fabricators and was lucky enough to meet them at the most recent Annapolis Boat Show.  I was quite impressed with their work and resolved to buy one of their ladders.

After launch at Green Cove Springs this March, I measured the gateway and the toe rail. I then ordered the ladder which came promptly.  The base was 18" instead of the advertised 15".  I had to move one of the stanchions 3" forward.  This was no small task. As you can see in the picture each stanchion has two braces.  Also the stanchion base was too corroded to be reused.  Fortunately I had a spare base that I had been carrying around for years.  These bases are still available for C&C customers from South Shore Yachts in Ontario.

When the ladder was finally in place it looked magnificent--gleaming like a silver jewel! When unfolded and deployed the arms lock in place. The folding elbows are locked in place by sliding sleeves. It is a mechanical work of genius.

Underway I plan to rig up a safety line with a slip knot.  That way if I ever fall overboard and am able to regain the boat, I can tug on the line and release the ladder.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Where did the season go?

My, my, my, where did the season go? We have spent 3 weeks here at Vero Beach mooring field. The original plans to travel to the Abacos, Bahamas have succumbed to time constraints. Why did we spent so much time here at Vero Beach? Some of the time was spent visiting old friends such as Sandra and Davido and playing golf with Skip Hardy. But most of the time was consumed in chores and the endless, ongoing boat building. We attended 3 of the Thursday afternoon happy hours with local cruisers.

Charlie Mitchell flew in to help with installing the new Doyle stack pack sail cover. One afternoon I had to make three trips up the mast to install the cheek blocks for the new lazy jacks. This chore stretched out over two weeks as we had to send the sail cover back for changes. Remember what the Great Carpenter said, “Measure twice, cut once.” Eventually the stack pack was installed and looked great. Tip of the hat to Mark Matthews from Doyle Sails. He was very patient and responsive. Still it was all long distance and tricky. Time will tell whether this is an upgrade as the sail cover requires considerable attention. However, I will not regret having to wrestle the main sail into submission in challenging conditions. With the stack pack I can address the main sail after the anchor is secure. 

New lazy jacks

Charlie also helped me replace an antenna. What happened to the old one I do not have clue. It just was not there when we picked up the boat at GCS. The antenna is a Metz Manta 6. The old one gave great service since it was installed in 2007. I had to go to the mast head which was not fun at my age and weight. Jan said that she had never heard the winch make such noises. Fortunately, she did not have to crank me to the top as the coach roof winch is electrified.

Jan added two more coats of varnish to the exterior wood. Also she resurrected the companionway screen. After a vanish job she re-screened it. Also the Velcro for mosquito screens for the hatches were redone. This is a vital job at Vero Beach which is quite “buggy”, intolerably so in the summer.

 Old Edson table brought back to life

 Hand rail as work of art

Restored companionway screen varnished

New running lights were installed on the bow. These have not been working for years. We have been relying on the masthead tricolor at night. However, the tricolor is not legal when motoring, esp. in the ICW and harbors where most people are looking for a low light. I had to completely rewire the lights as the original wire was corroded. I used enclosed LED lights from Hella. I can only hope these perform better than the old incandescent lights from Aqua Signal which never stayed lit for more a few months at a time.

 Note the small port bow light with home made mount

Karl changed out one of the batteries. White Pepper uses Odyssey group 31 2150s. These batteries are amazing. The one I replaced lasted 9 years, but they cost $350 and weigh 85 pounds. Very challenging.

New charts for the journey north were ordered. A mail drop arrived. Propane was topped up.,

A project that failed was installing a new fuel gauge. The old sending unit could not be removed. I can only assume it was welded into place when the new tank was built by Deltaville Boatyard in 2009.

Several deck leaks were addressed. A large leak was discovered at the starboard potable water intake. This leak had plagued Jan for years as it sent water straight into the pan locker and rusted her pans. A huge project at Green Cove Springs to seal the mast boot seemed to be helping. Keeping water off the “roof” is an endless project on the White Pepper. We know that if we fail in this effort our lovely home will be slowly destroyed.

A leaking PSS drip less stuffing box was addressed by Peter, our local mechanic at Vero Beach Marina. He added 3/8 inch of tension to the rubber bellows. I hope this works, because if it does not we will have to haul out somewhere. We can not live with salt water spray in the engine compartment. It will destroy the engine. I had to spend an afternoon washing the engine with water, drying it and then applying PAM.  Maintenance buffs should know that a PSS dripless stuffing box has to  be installed with two sets of set screws--one on top of the other.  My installation only had one set. The set screws can never be reused. Also the entire shaft should be replaced every 6 years regardless. This one is only one year old but it replaced one that was easily 10 plus years old.

We spent a lot of time at Waldo's, the local beach bar.

Current plans are to travel north to the Chesapeake. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Milk Run to Vero Beach

White Pepper has made the run from the St. John's River to Vero Beach, FL perhaps 5 times. Actually, I've lost count. However, the trip retains its charms: Jacksonville Municipal Marina near the Jaguar's stadium, Pine Island anchorage, St. Augustine mooring field, Daytona Beach anchorage, Titusville mooring field, Dragon Point anchorage near Melbourne, and then the Vero Beach marina mooring field. With White Pepper's powerful new motor these legs only take several hours apiece, instead of all day as with the old motor. However, we had reasons to stop at each place.

At the free dock at Jacksonville Municipal Marina we took on free water and washed the deck down. By coincidence we met with friends Carolyn and Pierre from Obsession and spent a wonderful evening together. The tides and currents were unfavorable the next day so we stopped short of St. Augustine at the reliable Pine Island anchorage. This day was high lighted by seeing a bald eagle sitting on a log next to the Palm Valley canal. The sighting happened too quickly to get a picture. The next day brought only a short 11 n. mile hop to St. Augustine, where we picked up a mooring near Ken and Connie on Oz. Ken and Connie are our oldest cruising friends that are still active. Regrettably, they are taking Oz north to sell her and will likely “swallow the hook” which means to move onto land. Daytona Beach is a long haul from St. Augustine and has several safe spots to anchor. White Pepper quickly polished off the 50 n. mile run to Titusville. During the last two hours of this leg we were able to sail under genoa between the Haul Over Canal Bridge and Titusville.We could have gone further but needed fuel. We took a mooring ball. The next morning we went into the marina for fuel, a shower, a few groceries and breakfast. Titusville is great!

 Haul Over Canal and Bridge is the start of the Indian River

 Titusville in the distance

 Aphrodite surveys the sunset from Dragon Point

That day we got to Dragon Point about 2:30 pm the next day which is ridiculously early to anchor. Dragon Point is at the southern tip of Merritt Island. It reminds me of a poor man's Palm Beach with beautiful people jogging, bicycling or rowing along the protected waters of the Indian River. However, Vero is another 35 n. miles south and just barely out of White Pepper's range at that hour. There are no really safe anchorage between Dragon Point {Melbourne, FL ) and Vero Beach. We arrived at the Vero Beach Marina early in the afternoon and took a mooring ball in the north field (#25). We were surrounded by numerous old friends who were migrating north from the Bahamas as we were heading south.

The trip took a total of 40 engine hours. The guide book records 240 statue miles between the intersection of Pablo Creek and the ICW, and Vero Beach. The trip for White Pepper evolves with each try. This time we had familiarity. It is not quite the familiarity of a trip to the home Wal-Mart, but still there are no longer surprises or novelty. The same derelict wrecks are in place as are the beautiful mansions and scenery. Each curve in the route and each bridge is familiar. There is more of a sense of nostalgia. Jan and I are constantly telling each other “remember when this happened in 2010?” or “did that happen in 2012 or 2013?”

Vero Beach is full of nostalgia but good times as well. We saw Pete and Diane of Pearl, John and Joan on Jessie Gray, Chuck and Sandy of Second Wind, Brad and Anne of Anne Teak. We renewed old friendships with couples that we had met at Vero—Sandra and Davido of Utopia, Joe and Sherry of Narsilium.
Skip Hardy took me golfing again at his club. Jan and Harriet Hardy went shopping.

When not visiting the days are filled with chores. We are fitting a new stack pack for the main sail, the fuel tank and the stuffing box needs maintenance. A new antennae had to be mounted at the masthead and running lights had to be fitted on the bow. Jan fitted a new mattress pad into the forepeak. Brother-in-law Charlie Mitchell flew in to help with the stack pack and enjoy a mini vacation. The weather has been beautiful and the days pass too quickly. It is going to be tough to leave “Velcro” Beach.
 Charlie Mitchell attends the halyards,

while Karl works aloft.