Tag Archives: Diesel

Delivery-ing vs Adventure-ing

Well it is an ill wind that blows no good, and it must be true because the temps and humidity have been wonderful. But…

After the thick rain and thin thunder in Little River, SC, we were presented with a wind from 62 degrees with a possibility of seven foot swells on the bow. Our course offshore was to have been 62 degrees.

Thus we motored up the ICW into a five day forecast of winds from the N-NE-NNE-ENE…you get the drift.

Worse, we were on the wrong side of the moon. We were in that part of the lunar cycle when low tide comes in the middle of the day and a foul current runs pretty much from sunrise to sunset (in this part of the coast).

This adds up to long days droning along at reduced groundspeed and concern about the less well maintained sections of the ICW.

We left Little River at 0800 and made Wrightsville Beach at 1730 after 25 knot headwinds in the Cape Fear River and 3+ knot foul currents in Snow’s Cut.

The next morning, we left WVB at 0700 to be sure of the 0800 bridge. Beyond that we droned…

“Wishing Star”
Passed us at Surf City Bridge
84 foot 1963 Trumpy — one of the last.

These followed Wishing Star…as well they should have.

We arrived at Mile Hammock early because it is was a short day – forced by foul currents and 80 miles with only one suitable anchorage midway. This left time for some kite flying and to watch two boats come in later and anchor too closely considering there were only six boats in the whole place. One moved. The other (that had run up past us at the WVB bridge even though they were a slower boat) appeared to have a strong faith in providence. Sadly, before dinner, I removed the jacklines we use for our harnesses offshore. From here on we are consigned to the “ditch.”

  • When sunset came, the sky had a smokier tinge than usual.
  • As the night progressed the air had a smokier aroma than usual.
  • When the sun came up, long writhing tendrils of smoke were braided with clouds that might have been offshore fog during the night.
  • The sky was flat and red-gray in the North. The 59 degree breeze came from there.
  • We left early to make the 0800 opening at Onslow Beach Bridge.
  • A mile or two north our eyes started stinging and throats burned.
  • Visibility dropped.
  • The sunlight that made it to the boat was the color of a mercury vapor lamp.
  • What reflections there were on the water were Halloween orange. They flickered like the eyes of a thousand imps.
  • Finally in Swansboro (3 hours later, thanks to the 1.5 knot foul current), within a half mile, we turned and left the smoke from an out of control 2800 acre burn-off in the Croatan National Forest behind us.
  • It took a couple of hours to quit coughing and blinking, but the rest of the day was so nice on its own and by comparison, we really enjoyed it (if you discount the nutcases in center consoles around Morehead City).
  • We made Broad Creek, off the Neuse at 1830 after enduring a 2.0 knot foul current in the Adams Creek Canal between Morehead City and the Neuse River.
  • It was quiet, smoke free and still.

Early this morning we came alongside at River Dunes Marina and took on diesel, had visitors aboard from Dolphin an Allied Princess. Then we borrowed the marina car for grocery shopping and lunch. M&Ms was even better than in November. Their conch fritters, placed on a platter with their Bahamian cousins, would be indistinguishable. These folks really know how to cook shrimp! The service was enthusiastic and attentive.

While at lunch, we received a poor air quality report on the new Droid…the wind had gone south (literally) and the fine particulates from the burn-off were expected to be raining down on us all day. And between entering the restaurant and leaving the smell of smoke had returned. A few miles away, back at River Dunes the aroma was gone.

As an adventure, it isn’t much. As a delivery trip it’s pretty much the norm. As a way of life, it suits us fine.


The gust front hit at 68.9 knots.

The weather had been beautiful after Beryl and its lingering moisture were swept out by a cold front. But because we couldn’t turn the rental car in until Monday*, we had to settle for a forecast with “isolated thunderstorms, some possibly severe” tacked on at the end. Laying the text out day by day, it looked as if getting north of Savannah late in the night would reduce our probabilities.

Looks can be deceiving.

We left the marina in Brunswick less smoothly than usual. A current running down the SE River wasn’t particularly visible at the surface, but the keel and rudder felt it, and getting out of the 60 foot space between docks with a 45 foot boat in the grip of an unexpected current reminded me of the first time I rode a horse. [The horse won.]

Having left on time, if not gracefully, we rode the developing ebb down the Brunswick River and out the ship channel to hit our turning point 34 minutes early. Minutes like these go in the bank to be given back along the way.

We were delighted to have sailing conditions as we turned NE and shut the diesel down. Equally delightful was the long-shore current that put more time in the bank. We settled back to enjoy the cooler offshore temps, the clear sky and to dodge shrimpers for a while.

Around 1330, we both decided the sky to the west wasn’t looking quite as delightful. I put our radar in weather mode, and we looked out that direction to see heavy and increasingly organized [not good] rain showers coming together into a diagonal wall that was headed across our course at 30 knots from about 40 miles away. What NOAA had to say, confirmed what we saw. Pfui!

We decided to turn south and let them slide past us and proceed north once they had crossed. They did not cooperate. The southwest end of the wall kept propogating farther south than we could escape. So we furled the sails and made ready [not quite] to meet them head on in the thinnest part of the wall we could discern.

It was thin, but, man it was wiry… The gust front hit us at 68.9 knots [That’s 78.5 mph folks]. It ripped water off the surface and shot-blasted us with it. In less than five minutes the winds were down to only 56 knots, and the waves began to build. They had seven miles from the coast to gather steam before they reached us and were 6-8 feet high and only about 40-60 feet apart and the color of milky malachite. Their tops were a continuous wall of breaking white combers with long downwind manes of spray that hurt when it hit you.

69 knots…looking downwind

Fifteen minutes later these were 7 footers with large white manes.

We had the engine at full throttle and were able to keep bow to the waves except when the wind suddenly gusted from an odd direction, and then we would be shoved abeam and rolled. Then we would begin the slow turn back up into the waves. Every two or three minutes the boat would crest a wave and nose-dive into the oncoming wave. Then it would pop back up like a bath tub duck. Our ground speed during all of this was about a knot to windward.

And then the rain came. And then the mushy pea hail. Fortunately, the thin part of the line was thin on lightning. After distant cloud-to water-stuff before the gust front arrived, the infrequent remainder was cloud-to-cloud.

When the winds became a manageable 30-40 knots we were able to fall off to starboard and resume our course with those same waves lifting and lowering us like a giant game of blanket toss. All told, it lasted an hour. We will not forget Altamaha Sound.

As squalls like these usually do, this one had knocked the sailing winds senseless, and we motored back along our course having withdrawn 1:37 from the time bank. [The reason these times were important was our desire to reach Charleston with a favorable flood tide.]

Before sunset arrived we had wind again and were able to shut down and sail, but that lasted only a while, and again, we had to motorsail to maintain the seven knots we now needed. The moon rose full and red behind the remnants of squall clouds that now were reaching farther south than Brunswick and lighting the sky with flash pops.

We reached Savannah nearing midnight in the garden of large ships moving fast. First the King Douglas cleared out toward the sea-buoy, then the pilot boat Georgia made its way down to the Skodsborg which had hauled anchor and was building steam toward the ship channel. Then the American President’s Lines Chile came down channel at 17 knots and crossed behind us about two miles distant. Without the AIS all we would have known was big stuff was moving, and we would have had to rely on plotting solutions only to determine our actions. By being able to add the AIS information and the plotting solutions, we were able to safely transit with a lot less concern.

And then moon or not, it got really dark. From Savannah northward, there were a few lights and the anchored shrimpers’ work-lights might or might not have been shore lights. We started combat napping in the cockpit and spelling one another on about 90 minute intervals. From Savannah to sunrise was only six and a half hours.

Off Port Royal Sound, the wind returned and with authority. We had 18-23 knots of wind on a beam reach. We shut the engine down and proceeded to race through the blackness. From time to time we would surf a wave as the swells changed direction, depending on the tide flooding or ebbing in a nearby inlet. At nautical twilight—the sky just pinking in the east—we were only 12 minutes behind our time line, and that’s essentially zero given the precision of tidal current forecasting.

Off Folly Island we went back to motorsailing as the sun warming the air lifted the breeze above us. By the time we had reached the Charleston Inlet jetties, the wind had come back down to the surface and was back in the 18-23 range – on the nose. We furled and motored in on a flood tide and had the anchor down in the Ashley River not far from the Coast Guard docks at 1020.

We were napping about 20 minutes after that. We napped until 1600 and went to bed early. The next day we slept in until 1000 as nearly two inches of heavy rain washed the salt from the boat and kept us lulled. We still checked on the anchor and our position relative to other boats and obstructions on a regular basis, but we weren’t 100% till around noon.

Was it worth it? You bet. We traded 25 hours (20 actually offshore) for three days of droning tedium and badly maintained waterway. We would have gotten beaten up by the squall either way—and would have had fewer options for dealing with it in the waterway. Yes, we could have anchored if we could find a place where 60+ knot winds wouldn’t put us ashore.

The important thing to remember is that with sea room, a well-found boat with a competent crew is much safer (if occasionally less comfortable) offshore. The prevailing and squall winds were blowing from land to sea–we had 3000+ miles of ocean downwind, not mud, sand and gravel a 100 feet away and an unknown bottom beneath.

Did it go perfectly well? No. The Droid is dead, long live the Droid. I had it outside testing the limits of its coverage and forgot to stow it. It now performs like HAL after its singing “Daisy” was done. The electric flyswatter is also toast so it no longer toasts flies. [A bad, bad thing between Charleston and Gerogetown.]

But there is nothing quite like eating fresh sour-sweet cherries and tossing the pits in your moonlit wake while crashing along on a beam reach at 7.5 knots at 0200 with nothing on the radar but buoys.

*I had a vertigo attack the day we planned to start moving our car northward. So we ended up a day behind.

Moving Onward

Today’s forecast includes rain and perhaps thunder (and its undesirable antecedent). We are finally in VHF range of Marsh Harbour and were able to listen to the Cruisers’ Net. Their weather forecast, provided by BarometerBob.org (the founder RIP) includes the precip and cloud information the digital NAVTEX broadcasts from the Miami Hurricane Center generally leave out.

The Net also functions much as Radar O’Rielly in M.A.S.H. — keeping cruisers up to date on passage conditions, local events, missing dinghies, other lost and found (a carved Mallard-headed sentimental boat hook was announced lost by owner and announced found by another boat within three minutes), wants and needs, and public service announcements. It is useful, entertaining, and an example of the nautical inclination to help one another.

VHF radio is different here. It is much more of a telephony system than the US (or the international rules) allow. Twice now, we have heard “break” calls on 16 directing interested listeners to another channel to hear about marina hosted St Patrick’s Parties, island rock concerts and diving. While folks seem to be respectful of 16’s public safety usage, the other channels are chatterdoms (and some have been expropriated for business and government usage). So far, it seems to help rather than hinder. But then we are gradually working our way down into the concentration of boats and population; we may not feel that way after a while.

Except for the roar of the wind and the rumble of the diesel, this trip has been characterized by its quiet. We know that’s going to change starting tomorrow. We’ve made reservations at the Green Turtle Club. It’s a marina well known for its pricing policy. Simply put, your restaurant and bar bills are subtracted until your dockage bill (slip only) is free. Or even more simply, you eat free as long as you keep the total tab under the total slip fee. Of course, TV cable is $5 a day, [just found out it’s non-functional] water is $0.20 a gallon, but here, electricity is included in the slip fee [nooo, it’s now $12 a day].

The restaurant has a good reputation and the marina has been recommended by three cruisers so far (one pair stayed the winter there). And on Wednesday nights the “Gully Roosters” play so we have to hang around long enough to hear them. Which means we’ll have a chance to get some exercise.

It all seems like a good deal/idea. Tomorrow, we will move down to anchor off Green Turtle Cay to await the upper third of high tide so we can enter White Sound and change the rhythm of our drummer for a while.

Post Script

The predicted rain filed to materialize, but as we watched for indications, we noticed all the cumulus clouds racing across the Sea of Abaco clearly had turquoise tinted bottoms. The camera couldn’t pull out what the eye saw. Trust us, it was there.

Home Waters

There are three places we think of as home waters: The Indian River, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Chesapeake. The Indian River is where our sailing started. We learned some hard lessons fast sailing here.

As we motored through Mosquito Lagoon north of Kennedy Space Center we felt ourselves being pulled back by our shared history — as much as pushed forward by a fair wind and tidal current. The VAB, hazy in the distance, was a building I toured government VIPs through when I was a Second Lieutenant (as well as the rest of KSC and Cape Canaveral).

Much has changed here but not in the essentials. The terrain and scrub and fauna are just as unfriendly as they were when the first Spaniards named this burl on the trunk of Florida the “Cape of Canes.” The air is just as salt and moisture laden as it was when it digested my aircraft sitting on the ramp at Patrick AFB.

The Booms aren’t as boomy, and the Busts seem bustier. When we were here, as bad as the coincident ending of Apollo and Minuteman were, we knew Shuttle and Peacekeeper (MX) were coming. Today, the US Manned Space Program has no believably defined future. Perhaps the Russian equivalent of a C-5 taking off over us just after we cleared Haulover Canal and entered the River was an appropriate exclamation point to this sad fact.

Even so, the strip malls are just as strippy.

We ate lunch at El Leoncito today. The cab ride each way was very close to the cost of lunch. But it was worth it. These people love their cooking and it tastes that way. As we ate, three boats comparable to ours made their way south past the window. Behind them the VAB and an empty shuttle transporter reminded us no longer will El Leoncito be a congregation point for watching Shuttle launches. At a table across from us, a group that bracketed my age by +/- 20 years told stories. “When I came here in 1983…” drifted our way. The remark quieted the group because they all knew most of them would pass on without seeing America project its power into Space again in their lifetimes. Are there other National priorities? You betcha! But to end our Space leadership like a teenager who’s run out of quarters for the pinball machine is just sad.

Back aboard, I transferred 50 gallons of diesel from the aft tank to the forward one. I supervised the slow rise in level using a webcam placed on the tank viewing port and illuminated by an LED flashlight. I watched the picture on our second laptop. Only the fuel pump and diesel existed when I was a 2nd Lieutenant.

Now I’m watching the expected rain sail our way from the Gulf Of Mexico even as it dissipates. Florida is nearly three inches behind this meteorological winter. La Nina strikes again. Just as I typed that a pelican plunged into the water less than two feet off our stern to seize a fish that thought our hull hid it.

Home Waters.

River’s Edge Marina, St Augustine

Quality is fitness for use. St Augustine’s River’s Edge Marina is a quality marina. Equally important, it is a family owned small business. I’ll patronize those before a government owned marina any day.

We pick our marinas for safety, cleanliness, utility, and management. River’s Edge (formerly Oyster Creek*) gets high marks from us on all counts. It is in a safe neighborhood. It is protected from surge, wakes and winds.  It has safe facilities (docks, decks, pilings, ramps, etc.). It is operated safely.  It is clean. The young man who maintains the laundry, heads, and grounds gets a plus by his high mark.

For utility it is very hard to beat. It has the lowest price on commercially supplied diesel for miles (and miles). It is just off US 1, and food & spirits, marine supplies (West), hardware, yada-yada-yada, are literally no more than 15 minutes away — even propane at the St Augustine Beach KOA! If it’s farther, call Eco Ride, a zone-fared taxi that uses a hybrid. Back at the marina, Hurricane Patty’s serves an excellent meal. Its clientele extends well beyond the marina denizens, so they have to pay attention to quality.

And River’s Edge is well-managed. This is our third stay, and once again, we left the boat in their care for the better part of a month while we took a road trip.

*They changed the name because people inferred “Creek” meant shallow and passed them by. Strange, I thought one used a chart to determine depth. What ever one calls it, River’s Edge pays attention to the essentials and leaves non-value added glitz to others to charge extra for.


These are the colors of the diesels that have been players in our lives. I would have rather they had all been white. It makes it easier to keep them clean and to see problems at their earliest. The yellow ones were Air Force and were essential to keeping my 46 airplanes weapons ready and loaded. If I had ever touched one of those air-cooled demons, the QC cops would have written me up.

The green Volvo was raw water-cooled. The blue Perkins and silver Yanmar were/are freshwater cooled. But all three have impeller driven, self-priming water pumps. All three have eaten impellers. The Volvo ate a half-dozen and kept the pieces, gradually affecting the cooling performance until I tracked them down and extracted them (a seven-year process).

The Perkins ate only one in eight years–probably because I went to the expense of buying a quick removal cover.

The Yanmar just ate its first. It was OK at the beginning of the season. Usually, it’s because of age. There are screens upstream to keep solids from damaging the blades. Except for sand. During this trip we went through several areas with significant suspended solids in the water because of the state of the tide

The impeller should look like this.   Installing them is straight forward. I put a nylon cable tie around the vanes and pull it tight to compress the blades. I lubricate it with waterproof gear grease. I insert it until the cable tie is just reachable with diagonal cutters. I snip the tie and push the impeller the rest of the way home.

Of course this came after I had completely emptied the cockpit  storage locker so I could crawl below and check transmission fluid level and quality — as well as topping off the genset oil (remember, we are talking bear in a refrigerator carton}.

Then the impeller change. Then the engine run to heat the oil. Then scavenging the used oil (required two trips to the collection tank at the back of the marina). Then came the oil filter removal and replacement…and THEN the fresh oil went into the engine. Then came the belt check.

Then I decided to finish the TV cable installation our installer started for us seven years ago. All clothes had to come out of three lockers. The back of one locker had to be removed. The existing wire had to have a new end fitting. (A process done almost entirely by feel).

By now, I have contorted for four hours and nothing doesn’t hurt.

And then today I spent six hours chiseling teak trim off the cockpit coamings in preparations for new traction material.  Even using a rubber mallet with the chisel, my wrist  is now walking wounded as well.  Thank goodness for chewable aspirin.

Tomorrow we cut and glue the new non-skid and pick up the departure tempo. Our next stop is focused on peace and quiet, walks on the beach, and dolphins.