Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Bertha

Matanzas River
29 48.97 N 081 17.53 W

We had a leisurely day on the ICW.  We decided to bypass Saint Augustine.  We've seen the sights there before, and we had no errands to run on shore.  The bottom line was Libby's statement.  She said that if we stopped to get a mooring for the night, she would not be interested in going ashore.

And now for a topic left over from last summer:

In the picture below you see me holding Big Bertha. That’s what I call our 80 pound Luke anchor.

We bought Big Bertha specifically for Lake Champlain and places like Porter Bay. You see, zebra mussels have invaded the lake and made the water much clearer. That allowed sunlight to penetrate to the bottom to depths it never did before. That in turn caused an explosion in weeds, especially the kind called milfoil.

Many of my prior favorite anchorages were so choked with week that I couldn’t use them. I could drop the CQR anchor or the Danforth anchor but they wouldn’t bite. The problem was that the weeds were so thick that the lightweight anchors couldn’t penetrate down to the mud. I had to increase my minimum anchoring water depth on Champlain to 15’ and then to 20’. My favorite sheltered spots where I could anchor close in at 7’.

The solution was Big Bertha. She sure penetrates to the bottom. The two pictures below show us raising anchor after Tropical Storm Irene in Porter Bay. The entire 120’ of chain I had out was fouled with weeds, and Big Bertha brought up 150 pounds of weeds with her. I was sure sweating by the time we got all that on board and clear of weeds.

When not on Champlain, Big Bertha comes apart in three pieces. I store the pieces in the lazarette, down below the water line. A secondary benefit is that we have a great storm anchor if we ever need it. We felt extra secure during Irene with Big Bertha and 120’ of chain out in 7’ of water.

A fisherman’s type anchor (such as the Luke) is also useful if you must have short scope. Suppose you come into a harbor so crowded that you can’t anchor with anything more than a 3:1 or even 2:1 scope. Then the fisherman anchor can serve you well. They rely more on their own massive weight to hold rather than a clever shape.

Big Bertha is so big that she has a 7/8” shackle on the end. I use 3/8:” shackles to attach my anchors to our 5/16” chain. No way a 3/8” shackle can couple with a 7/8”. I have to tie an enormous bowline knot in our chain to attach it to Big Bertha. I wire down the loose end. It appears to do the job well. I've never tied a knot in chain otherwise.

When we are sailing on Champlain, Big Bertha can’t be left on deck. We carry her tied to the side up at the bow. I figured out how to do it in a way that isn’t loose and doesn’t scratch the hull.

When we pull into an anchorage on Champlain among all those local weekend sailors, you should see their eyes pop when I unleash Big Bertha.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Plans, No Cares

Sisters Creek
30 26.09 N 081 27.39 W

On Friday our friends Mike and Nancy took us out to a nice restaurant in Mayport.  It was right next to the Mayport ferry terminal and it had a great view of the river.  We were interested in Mike's stories about hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  It has certain similarities to boat cruising, but many differences.  Thank you Nancy and Mike.

Today we're heading down to visit Terri and Larry on the Saint Johns River.  They have a place on the water just a bit west of the ICW.  Tomorrow we'll head south on the ICW, hopefully with a near optimum tidal current boost.   I would like to get past Saint Augustine Monday, then head for Matanzas Inlet arriving at high tide on Tuesday.  We can spend a day or so exploring there.

After that what?  We have no plans, no schedule, no cares.  For the next 5 days or so the weather does not look favorable for going outside.  Therefore we'll just poke along the ICW.  Maybe we'll try the new marina at Marineland.  Maybe we'll call our school mate Kerry when we're in Daytona.  That's not a bad agenda; right?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Smartphone Apps Redux

Fernandina Beach, Florida
30 43.14 N 081 32.78 W

My friend Don bought a new smartphone.  He asked me to update my list of apps that I find useful while cruising.  Glad to.  Here goes:

Nautical Apps
  1. Navionics USA East -- a full featured chart plotter with the whole USA east coast.  Does things your regular chart plotter can't.  Does not need a cell phone signal to work.  Battery hog but a great backup for only $9.99
  2. Tide Predictor
  3. Weather Bug Deluxe -- great weather centered on your GPS pos.  Doppler radar shows animations of thunderstorms up to 100 miles away.  You can tell if a storm will hit you or not.  Get the deluxe version (I think $1.99)
  4. First aid quick ref in your pocket
  5. Real Calc
  6. Hurricane Hound Free
  7. Bubble level
  8. Sound meter & Vibrometer.  These meters are not calibrated but you don't care.  Just start a log and record baseline values (such as cruising at 1800 RPM with phone flat on deck above the transmission.)  Repeat periodically.  You're looking for sudden jumps or creeping trends.
  9. Tricorder - named after the hand-held scanners in the original Star Trek, but it's very useful.  See gravity/acceleration in 3 axes.  magnetic field in 3 axes.  Acoustic spectrum.  GPS position and satellites.  Cell phone signal and WIFI signal strengths, and solar activity.   Gives you a window on the built-in sensors in your phone.
  10. Nautichart   phone version of  (I don't like it much)
  11. is a primary source for weather.  Go there, and they have a phone app. is similar but better for inland waters.  You can save bookmarks with both passageweather and sailflow for your favorite regions, then put icons for those bookmarks on the desktop for quick access.
Star Gazing
  1. Google Earth.  Centers on your GPS position. See what's behind that bank of trees.  Like having a chopper mounted camera following you around.
  2. Google Sky Map.  Blows everyone's mind.  Point your phone at a bright object in the sky and this app shows you it's name.  
  3. Predisat  -- see times & where to look for ISS flyovers and Irridium flashes.
  4. Meteor Showers -- like predisat but for meteors
  5. ISS Lookup -- see where the ISS is right now.
  6. Sky Eye a built-in planetarium progrem.  (on your laptop get a world class free program Stellarium -- great fun)
  7. ZP Dashboard.  Like a pilot's heads-up display for heading and azimuth.  Useful when trying to locate an object by declination and elevation.
  1. Two touch timer -- timer/alarm clock
  2. Barcode scanner
  3. App2SD -- may or may not work on your phone. Moves apps from scarce memory space to plentiful SD card space.  Makes your phone faster but startup time for apps might be slower.  If this doesn't work, you can fill up your phone's memory faster with too many apps.
  4. Wifi analyzer.
  5. Data quota.  Who's your carrier? I have Verizon.  They provide an app that shows my data use for the month, so I can compare it with my quota.  Vital.
  6. Password Master  I store copies of all my online and phone account names and passwords here.  It is protection if you forget them.
  7. Lookout -- vital, free, antivirus security for your phone.  Also backs up some stuff and has features for a lost phone.  I don't need the premium version.
  8. cab4me    Gives you the phone number for the nearest cab to your GPS pos. 
  9. S2 Calendar Widget -- displays this month's calendar as an icon on my home screen.  Click it to make appointments.
  10. Easy Tether Pro -- My most important program.  It makes my phone into a broadband modem for my laptop.  I'm using it right now to write this email while under way.  At night, Libby and I watch movies or TV shows on the laptop via the phone's tether.  Cell providers and Apple are cracking down on tether programs.  They want to charge you an extra $50/month for tethering service.  My app I got for $9.99 before they clamped down so I'm grandfathered. You should at least try to get it and install it.
  11. Call Confirm  prevents butt calling.  Pops a window that makes you answer YES I really do want to dial this number.
  12. ebay
  13. key ring.  Scan and store the numbers of all your credit/loyalty/membership cards.  Then you don't need those cards in your wallet and/or provide a backup record in case you loose a card.  The app claims that it can show the card barcode on the screen and the store's scanner will scan it, but that part doesn't work.
  14. Shake To Answer -- does what it says.
  15. Quick Settings -- give much easier and more convenient access to phone settings.
Entertainment (whatever suits your taste. I use the following)
  1. Youtube viewer
  2. News - I'm a news addict.  Every day I use apps for Slashdot/NY Times/Drudge Report/NPR/Dilbert/Fox News/USA Today/Washpost/Public Radio.
  3. Google Reader.  Give it the list of blogs/podcasts you follow.  It gives you a consolidated list of new stuff since you last looked.
  4. Music -- MP3 music/podcast player.
  5. Listen -- player for online podcasts
  6. Angry Birds - everyone else on this planet has it already, you might as well do it too.
  7. Bubble buster, Space Physics, Fish Food, Toss it, Quadit, solitare -- fun games
If you have a data cap of 2GB or less, you'll have to watch your use.  Video sucks it up fast, about 0.5 GB per hour of viewing.   Audio takes about 1GB every 6 hours of listening.   If you have 4G, it is so fast you can use up your monthly data quota in 11 minutes!!!  If you have a 256MB cap, you'll need WIFI almost all the time.  Be careful.  I'm lucky to be grandfathered with unlimited data for $30/month.  That lasts as long as my contract. If I ever get a new phone and a new contract, I lose the grandfather privilege.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Repaired and Ready

Fernandina Beach, Florida
30 43.14 N 081 32.78 W

Well, our new mounts are in, the engine is aligned.  For the time being, vibrations seem to be a minimum.   We have yet to settle on the long term solution.  I plan to go on the hard at Cracker Boys in Fort Pierce, but we have not net decided on a course of action.  Stay tuned.  I'll let you know what Beta says.

A very favorable surprise was the good service from Tradewinds,  a local marine service company with proprietor Wayne York.  They did the job in 3.5 hours @65.   Two years ago, Helseth Marine, from Vero Beach, took 9 hours @$100, and the end result was not as good. Quite a difference.  Our local friend, Charlie recommended Tradewinds.  Thanks for that tip Charlie.

On the social scene, we've been riding high this week.  Yesterday I was using my computer in the sailors lounge here at the city marina when I heard a loud voice behind me, "You're Under Arrest."   It was Darrick, the police chief from Wisconsin who is now Captain of the cruising boat Y-Knot under direction of his Admiral Sharron.  They left Beaufort NC the day before we left Little Inlet.  Darrick was better at reading the weather than I was.  He hugged the coast rather than following the rhumb line.   During the two days we were out, Y-Knot passed us and arrived at Saint Marys Inlet 5 hours before we did.

Tonight, we had a visit from local cruisers Larry and Terri.  They live nearby on the Saint Johns river.   We introduced them to Darrick and Sharron, and the 6 of us went out for a very nice Italian dinner.   Fernandina Beach is a great place for such activities.  It is also a great favorite for tourists.  Every day we see tourists walking around the waterfront obviously charmed by the atmosphere.  It reminds me of how Libby and I were instantly enchanted by Boothbay Harbor Maine when we first encountered it on our honeymoon way back in 1965.

Tomorrow night we have a date with Mike and Nancy.  After that, we're not sure on our next move.  The weekend weather is not the best for going offshore.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Holding Pattern

Fernandina Beach, Florida
30 43.14 N 081 32.78 W

I got lots of good comments and advice yesterday about my vibration problem.  Read the comments to yesterday's post.  

We're going ahead with the motor mount replacement without having a real resolution to the vibration problem.  What choice do we have?  I plan to consult with Bud Taplin and Stanley at Beta before proceeding.   

In any event, we'll be here in Fernandina most of the week.  We had dinner with Charlie & Mary last night (Thank you very much.)   Tomorrow we're meeting with Larry & Terri, and on Friday with Michael and Nancy.  That's a pretty full social calendar.  We love it.

After that?  We're not sure what.  Remnants of Hurricane Rita may pass here on Saturday bringing gale winds. Maybe not. Weather forecasts on Rita are very uncertain.   We sure hope that's the last named storm this year.

So far, we're still well ahead of the pack of cruisers heading south.  Many of them are restricted by their insurance policies to not go south of the Carolinas before November 1.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wits End

Fernandina Beach, Florida
30 43.14 N 081 32.78 W

We're at the City Marina a few days.  My friend Charlie connected me with a mechanic.  He ordered new mounts.  We'll put them in Thursday.  

Jeff and Wendy commented on my problems.
Your temporary repair to your engine was very ingenious, I'll have to remember it. Unfortunately, it sounds like the problem you had with a broken motor mount may just be a symptom. When you mix it with the shaft seal leaking issue it may be a growing problem with your engine or possible its alignment.
I certainly agree with them.  But I'm at wits end.   We had the new motor re-aligned twice already.  I had the shaft straightened and checked and the propeller balanced.  I've spent $3000 so far trying to cure the problem with no results.  Still, the motor shakes.  Evidently, it shakes so much that it ruins motor mounts in just 2 years.  The previous Perkins 108 motor shook just as much, so I've come to accept it as normal.   My problem is that I have no experience with an inboard diesel that didn't shake.  I don't know what level of vibrations are normal.

I have two more clues.  My transmission ratio is 2:1.  According to Beta, all other W32s with Beta engines have a 2.5:1 ratio.  I, and they, have no idea why mine came different.   A second clue, if we run at more than 2000 RPM, the engine temperature begins to climb.  My top RPM at full throttle is 2500.  Some people say I should have the prop pitch set for 3000 RPM tops and cruise at 2400.   But if I did that, the vibration and the temperature are both too high.  Could it be the transmission ratio?

A third possible clue.  We use a shaft saver coupling between the transmission and the shaft.  I replace that also, the last time we changed the mounts.  To align the engine, they must remove the shaft saver, align, then replace the shaft saver.  Could having a shaft saver in the first place spoil the alignment?  It's not easy to remove it.  Without the shaft saver, the shaft is too short.  I would have to have a new shaft made to test it.

I'm at my wits end what to do next.  When these mounts are replaced the alignment must be re-done, but for how long will it last?  I wonder if I shouldn't take another approach.  Find a mechanic to take the job on a results-oriented basis.   "Fix my vibration problem.  Whatever it takes.  I don' pay a cent until it runs smooth as silk."   I worry that they'll charge me more than the cost of a new engine to accept that risk.  What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2011

In From The Sea But Limping

Saint Marys, Georgia
30 43.14 N 081 32.78 N

Florida HO!  That's what I shouted when Libby awoke me at 0600 and I looked outside.  We were only 1 mile from the jetty at the Saint Marys River entrance.  I could plainly see Feranadina Beach.  Thus Florida HO.  It took us 47 hours to make the 250 miles here from Litte River SC.

So, why have we backtracked to Georgia?  Look on the map.  We are just a fraction of a mile from the Florida/Georgia border.  I thought this was a nice place to anchor and take a restful nap to catch up a little on sleep.

Successful passage yes, but we came in limping.  Sunday evening, the wind died and Libby started the engine.  It started but we were startled by an awful noise that sounded like stones in a meat grinder.  I told her to put it in neutral.  The noise got worse!  What the H could it be.  I opened up the engine compartment and did a visual inspection.   Sure enough, I could see that the right rear engine mount had broken.  The noise came from vibration at the broken mount.  

What could we do about that?  I racked my brain.   Then I had a great idea.  I raised the cabin floor and pulled out two big C clamps that we store down there.   I then crawled over the warm engine and used one of the clamps to hold down the broken mount.  It worked!  Upon restart, the engine sounded normal.  Boy am I glad we had those clamps on board.

Suppose we had no clamp, what could we do?   Well, sailboats have an advantage.  We could just have sat out there waiting for some wind to return.  At the time of the breakdown we were 45 miles off the coast of Georgia.  Then we could have sailed to one of the several inlets along the coast of Gerogia and Northern Florida.   Then we could have waited for flood tide to help, and attempted to sail in.  That would have been problematic because the currents are swift and the winds were light.  We might have failed to navigate to where we needed to go against currents.  Of course, that means we could have sat at anchor still longer until a sufficiently strong wind came along.  But what would keep the batteries charged all those days?  Alternatively, we could have chickened out and called Tow Boat US to come tow us in.

I guess that reveals a truth about our life style.  Given enough time and patience, we could of course navigate anywhere the explorers went.  They had no engines, electric lights, or refrigeration systems. But we would choose to be towed instead.  Our lust for our conveniences overwhelms ancient skills and perseverance.  I know many of our land-based friends think us to be very primitive and adventuresome to live the life we do.   That's true in one sense, but it is also true that we're still much more pampered and spoiled than ancient sailors were.

p.s. We'll stay in the Fernandina area until new motor mounts are installed.  By the way, those mounts were only two years old and the second set of motor mounts since we installed the new engine four years ago.  What should the normal life of marine engine mounts be?  Two years sounds short.  However, we put 2,000 hours on our engine in two years.  That's 5 times the hours per year than typical boat engines experience.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


At Sea
32 00.01 N 080 12.34 W

Well, the creatures showed up yesterday after posting my blog. I saw a dolphin.

Soon after a goldfinch came hopping into the cockpit. Several times before we have had land birds land on the boat when we're out to sea. In our first year sailing, a little bird we called Birdie Num Num rode with us from New Jersey to Virginia. The implications are sad. Every day there must be numerous land birds who accidentally fly out to sea and get lost. If they don't know how to fly back to land, they'll die. Finding a boat at sea is a refuge and can be a life saver. The goldfinch stayed with us overnight, but we have not seen him this morning. Fare thee well goldfinch.

But this morning we also picked up a gorgeous moth as a hitchhiker. I presume he has the same problem as the birds. Hopefully, he'll stay until we get close to land.

Our AIS is working well. There were several ships coming in and out of Charleston as we passed by last night. Using the AIS I was able to track each and to determine that they were no threat to us. The peace of mind AIS gives is is much appreciated. It would be better still to transmit our own AIS info, but one small step at a time.

We made 120 miles in our first 24 hours. If that keeps up, we'll arrive early Monday morning. Unfortunately, ebb tide at St. Mary's inlet is 0730-1330. Hmm, can we hurry? Should we delay? The answer is neither. Winds are highly variable. We'll take what we get and decide on when to enter the inlet when we're within a couple of miles.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lonely Sea

At Sea
33 25.01 N 078 53.48 w

Ah it feels good to be out here again. We like the sea, albeit in small doses and when the weather is nice. It is sunny day, but a little chilly. Tonight should be spectacular, very clear, very dry and very cold. That's OK, we'll put on long johns and several layers so we'll be comfortable.

There's a meteor shower going on but I neglected to look up which direction to look before leaving. Oh well.

A power boat just zoomed past us 100 feet away. Other than that, we're totally alone out here. No ship, no dolphins, no whales, no traffic, no radio calls. No radio? You know there must be something wrong with our VHF. We should be picking up radio traffic from the ICW which is less than 20 miles away. Coming down from NYC to Norfolk we also had trouble receiving VHF, but not transmitting. We get strong signals, like NOAA weather radio, but not weaker ones. I'll have to look into that; not sure what the problem could be.

Just because we don't see fish doesn't mean they're not here. I was watching some nearby terns. They were having a grand time diving on the surface to snatch something to eat.

By the way, I saw a scene this morning I wish I could have caught on film. As we left Little River Inlet around 0700, a little aluminum boat was coming in. In it were a couple about as old as we were. Between them was a net bulging with fish. I guess 300-500 pounds of fish. It was a big catch. The fish were all small, 305 inches long. I don't know what one would do with them other than make a grand fish stew. There are famous seafood restaurants near there, perhaps they sell the fish to them. Anyhow, the boat, the fish, the net, the couple, the light and the morning mist would have made a grand photograph if only I had a high quality camera at hand. Perhaps even a fine camera would not be enough; a rocking sailboat is far from a stable platform for taking great pictures. If I was artistically talented, I could paint a picture from memory. Alas, my art never progressed beyond stick figures.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ready, Set, ...

Little River Inlet, Calabash, SC
33 51.50 N 0778 34.16 W

Whew, we finally escaped from Carolina Beach.  Our original intent was to stay there 1.5 days; enough to have dinner with Tom & Kathy, plus time to explore the nature trails.  It became 4 days because of weather and it started to get boring.  Yesterday, it was really nasty out on the river.  A really strong wind opposed the tide and whipped the water into a froth. The humid wind was bitterly cold. Nobody in the marina wanted to leave, including us.  

Today, was nice.  Highs about 75F and low 45F.  It will be like that the next three days at sea.  Light following winds, following seas, and almost warm during the day.  Night watches out in that open cockpit will be very cold.  However, we hope that each night will get warmer as we move south.   250 miles to go to the Saint Mary's River Inlet, estimated time 48-60 hours.   We leave at first light tomorrow racing a falling tide.

Congratulations to Mabrouk and all our Lybian friends.  Weeks ago, I asked Mabrouk if he was happy at the success of the revolution.  His grim reply was, "He's still alive."   For many Lybians it was more than a governmental revolution, it was a violent and just end for a hated cruel dictator.  I think the Lybian people were entitled to it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Too Good To Be True?

Carolina Beach State Park
34 03.03 N 077 55.14 W

Last year, one of our friends sold their W32 for $70,000.   It was a very nice boat, but in our (unbiased) opinion, not as nice as Tarwathie.  Today, I got word of another nice W32 that sounds very good but for only $4,000.  There must be a reason, but I admit to being puzzled.  The details follow.

Note I have no interest in that boat, or the broker, nor do I recommend anything. I'm posting it because it is curious. From here.


Click on image to enlarge 
  • Year: 1977
  • Current Price: US$ 54,000
  • Located in Deltaville, VA
  • Hull Material: Fiberglass
  • Engine/Fuel Type: Single diesel
  • YW# 6944-2287099

Other photos: Westsail 32 - SalonWestsail 32 - GalleyWestsail 32 - Custome galley storageWestsail 32 - Chart TableWestsail 32 - QuarterberthWestsail 32 - Salon, starboardWestsail 32 - Salon, portWestsail 32 - Port Bulkhead in SalonWestsail 32 - Pullman berthWestsail 32 - HeadWestsail 32 - Storage in forepeakWestsail 32 - Looking aftWestsail 32 - EngineWestsail 32 - Deck LayoutWestsail 32 - Cockpit with awnings overWestsail 32 - Deck from bowspritWestsail 32 - Granny bars & staysail track,Westsail 32 - Stern platform w/ equipmentWestsail 32 - On the hard, stern view

"Reliant" has had two owners. The first owner bought the boat as a hull, deck and bulkheads (#694) and crafted the interior. He was a master woodworker and used the highest quality materials, including Atkins and Hoyle bronze hatches. He fabricated every door, drawer & trim piece out of a variety of woods such as Canadian White Pine, Ebony, Teak, Black Walnut & Goncales Alves for the cabin sole. He even fabricated some of the hinges. The interior bulkheads are finished in white which makes the boat light down below and offsets the beautiful wood of the cabinet doors, headliner and cabin soles. This makes a nice change from the dark wood look that characterises many Westsail interiors. The boat has travelled down the East Coast of the USA to the Bahamas, but has spent most of her life in the fresh water of the Great Lakes. The current owners acquired the boat in 2000. They have continued to upgrade ‘Reliant’, installing more modern electronics, replacing the stove, head & cushion covers as well as purchasing North tanbark sails, installing a Cape Horn wind vane and installing a new Yanmar engine in 2004 (currently showing 601 hrs). They built a removable cockpit floor to give easy access to the engine compartment – what a bonus! The systems are simple and the boat is in superb condition, no expense has been spared to keep her looking good. She is ready to go South or just to go sailing. If you are looking for a classic Westsail 32 in Bristol condition, come and take a look at Reliant: she is gorgeous.The owner is a motivated seller because he believes the right place for aboat is on the water, being used, and he currently does not have the time to use "Reliant".

Hi, I am Jonathan Hutchings, the listing broker for this yacht. I am a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB) and take pride in listing quality yachts. I inspect all the boats I list, where possible take all the photos and represent the boats as accurately as possible. I am an experienced cruiser and racer who has crossed the Atlantic several times and who understands boat buyer's needs. Feel free to call me at any time to discuss this listing. I look forward to hearing from you. Call my cell (804)436 4484.

Jonathan Hutchings (CPYB) 
Annapolis Yacht Sales South in Deltaville, VA
(804) 776 7575 
(804) 436 4484

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beauty in Variety

Carolina Beach State Park
34 03.03 N 077 55.14 W

The nature here is very beautiful and varied.  Down at the river bank are barrier dunes and sea grasses.  Behind those are salt marshes.  Only one half mile inland are strictly fresh water cyprus swamps.  In between are a half dozen other ecologies.

Even the river water is a mixed environment.   We are about 10 miles from the sea.  Powerful outflow currents exist, but also powerful tides come in.  As a guess, I would say that the water here is fresh 1/3 of the time, brackish 1/3 and salt 1/3.  Only highly adaptive species survive here but the ones that do are especially robust and prolific.

One mile behind us is Carolina Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Long-leaf Pines, Reindeer Moss, small Live Oaks
Pitcher plant

p.s. On a completely different subject. I reserved a couple of easier to remember URLs for this blog and

Murphy's Law Is Recursive

Carolina Beach State Park
34 03.03 N 077 55.14 W

You all know Murphy's Law; right?
If anything can go wrong, it will.  And at the worst possible time.
Well, back in my engineering days I was fond of saying that Murphy's law is recursive.  In other words, it applies to Murphy too.  Whenever you are certain that you know things will go bad because Murphy predicts it; you get surprised and they go right.   I have three cases in point from recent days.

One thing we have not fared well with in 6.5 years of cruising is house batteries.  We bought so many batteries, I can't count.  They failed left and right.  Most recent was a battery that died from a cracked plate.  Such a demise is abrupt and easy to diagnose, that battery will not make 12 volts any more.  If run in a parallel bank with other batteries, it pulls down the voltage of the whole bank.   Well, the other day in Wrightsville Beach, I thought it happened again.  Within minutes after shutting off the engine after a full day motoring, the bank voltage dropped to 12.10 volts.  Uh oh.  Sure sounds like another bad battery.

Monday I had an idea.  Maybe we could buy a new battery locally and have it delivered to us here a thte state park.   I got my tools and volt meter and set out to make sure both batteries had adequate water and to figure out which was bad.  To my surprise, just as I removed the battery box tops, the bank sprang back to life.  It wasn't a bad battery after all, it was a lose wing nut on one of the terminals.  Got you that time Murphy.

Tuesday I set out to fix another problem.  Regular readers know that in recent weeks I removed the water tanks twice in a futile search for a leak.  Before putting them back I re-plumbed them with new hoses and clamps.  That's a lot of work.   Alas, Libby discovered that all our water use was coming from one tank, the second tanks was not participating despite the fact that both valves were open.  Darn, I thought.  I'll have to take them out a third time to find where I screwed up.  

When I lifted the floor to do that I instantly spotted the real problem  One of the hoses was bent too sharply and formed a kink.  That only took 10 minutes to remedy.  No removal of tanks was needed.  Got you again Murphy.

Today, we were supposed to leave this place and continue south.  We already sampled the pleasures this place has to offer.  However, the weather forecast was grim.   Very heavy rain, severe thunderstorms and headwinds up to 30 mph.  Also, we would have had to leave early at first light to catch the tide.   I got up at 6AM, and yes it was raining heavily.  I decided we would stay another day.  At 8AM I went up to the office to pay for another day.   I lingered in there 15 minutes listening to local history stories from the two rangers.  When I stepped back out, the rain had stopped, the sky was blue and there is no adverse wind.   Murphy got me.

p.s. We're still hoping to get out to sea on Saturday.  However, yesterday's forecast showed that we had an 80 hour window.  In this morning's forecast, the window shrank to 40 hours and Saturday is still 3 days away.  Keep your fingers crossed and don't think about Murphy.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Campers

Carolina Beach State Park
34 03.03 N 077 55.14 W

One of the delights about USA East Coast Cruising is that there are so many places to see.   No matter how many years we keep at it, we discover some new ones each year.  This time it is Carolina Beach State Park on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

Many times before, we passed by this spot on the banks of the Cape Fear River.  We always knew that there was a park here with a marina.  However, we were warned of shallow waters at the entrance and we were afraid of going aground.  Then, we heard a notice that the park would be closed for several years for renovation and dredging.  Now for the first time we were able to come in to the park for an overnight.  Bonus: it costs only $30/day to stay here; half the cost of a regular marina.  Bonus: Al the facilities are brand new, hardly used, and very nice.  Bonus: On a weekday we had almost the whole place to ourselves.  See the picture below.

What a delight!  The park is full of nature trails.   It was fun to walk around.   Bonus!  See the picture below.  I found a stand of pine trees with the longest needles we've ever seen.  Libby is a happy camper.

Another bonus.  This place is very close to the winter home of our long time friends Tom and Kathy from Schenectady.  We have many mutual connections, and we tried to meet as we passed by this way, but the last time we succeeded was 5 years ago.   Last night we made up for that.  Kathy & Tom invited us to their new house for dinner.  We had a wonderful time.  Thank you much Tom & Kathy.

Now what?  We are killing time.  A promising weather window appears to be forming starting Saturday afternoon.   We'll spend another night here at the park, then continue on Wednesday.  On the other hand, Tom said that the weather Wednesday is supposed to be terrible with very heavy rain.  If that's the case, we'll just stay here another day and leave Thursday.  We could go out to sea on Saturday from Little River Inlet near Calabash, SC.  With favorable winds we could be in Florida 48 hours after that.  We would like to spend a day or two on Cumberland Island, then move on to Fernandina Beach.

Monday, October 17, 2011

E-wasting Disease

Wrightsville Beach, NC

Reader Randy asked me to write about electronics problem on board.  Glad to.  We've seen a lot of it.

I call it e-wasting disease.  Consumer electronics especially have a short lifetime.  They seem to die from electrical contacts failing to contact.  In my opinion that is because of corrosion on the contact surface.   Remember that today's electronics are very small and delicate.  That's part of miniaturization.  Part of the problem is that contact surfaces are plated with noble metal only only one thousandth of an inch thin.   Right now my Droid and our digital camera have e-wasting disease.  Both are less than 2 years old.

The other part of the problem is the salt air environment.   On a boat surrounded by salt water, there is always salt in the air.  Usually, you can't see it or feel it, but it's there.   The salt coats everything, and microscopic salt crystals find their way into tiny enclosed spaces.  Salt is hygroscopic -- i.e. salt attracts water.   Salt coated surfaces are perpetually moist.  The salt pulls water out of moist air.  Moist salty solutions on the surface of contacts cause rapid corrosion, and thus e-wasting disease.

It was never so evident as when we sailed across the Gulf of Mexico and back.  Everything inside and outside the boat was salt encrusted.  All our clean clothes in the drawers became salt encrusted.  When you put on clean clothes, they felt wet and they stayed wet 100% of the time.  It was uncomfortable.  Salt also got in to all sliding metal-metal joints such as bearings.  They seized up and forced me to take them apart, clean them, and re-grease them.    That was the worst and most obvious, but even outside the Gulf of Mexico, the same problem exists albeit not so severe.

None of the electronics on board specifically designed for marine use have failed from e-wasting disease.  Our SSB radio, AM/FM radio, pactor modem, wind instruments, GPS, radar, and VHF radios all seem immune.   The difference is in the selection of metals and the size, shape and thickness of electrical contacts.   Seaworthy devices cost much more than normal consumer electronics.  There's a reason.

So, what can we do about it?  First and foremost, I buy cheap.  I figure that consumer electronics on board have a lifetime of only one year.  Anything better than a year and I'm ahead of the game.  Expensive brands do not last longer, so I don't buy them.  That's especially true for computers.  I paid $275 for my current Samsung netbook.  I paid an additional $250 for a 3 year extended warranty.  Perhaps more seaworthy would be the Panasonic Toughbook, but it  that costs 600% more!!!  It's not worth that much.   Buy cheap and don't weep when things fail.  Because of technical obsolescence it's nice to replace stuff frequently anyhow.  I face that with my Droid right now -- should I spend $50 with my insurance plan to get a reconditioned Droid, or should I go for a new more modern phone?  Ditto with the camera.

I might opt for $300 a ruggedized Olympus or Panasonic camera, bI'm a bit skeptical.  Waterproof items are not necessarily e-wasting disease proof.

Randy asked about packing things with desiccants like silica gel.  I've never tried it.  However, if the item will be unpacked for use every day, then I doubt if it would do any good.

Another boat hazard is EMP (electro-magnetic-pulse).  EMP is caused by nearby nuclear explosions.  Hopefully we won't encounter those, and if we do EMP will be the least of our problems.  EMP is also caused by nearby lightning strikes.  Aha! We do encounter that.  

Once in New Hampshire our mast got a lightning hit (or maybe a near hit.)  The current was conducted down the mast, through the grounding wire to a Dynaplate grounding device on the bottom of the hull. Nothing got burned or melted, but the EMP destroyed the SSB, radar and wind instruments.  The repair bill was $8000.  The insurance adjuster said that was modest -- $25,000 claims for EMP damage on sailboats is common.   The lightning doesn't even have to hit your boat to get EMP damage; it can hit a nearby boat and still damage your stuff.

Besides our grounding system we protect things from lightning by putting them in the oven when cloud-to-ground lightning is near.  We can fit the laptop, phones, GPS, and hand-held radio in there.  It would be nice to have room for the radar, SSB, chart plotter and more but they are far too large.

If you don't have an oven, I recommend cookie tins as a Faraday Cage-- like the round tin cans that Christmas cookies come in.  Some experts pooh-pooh that idea, but I think they will provide a decent measure of EMP protection.  When no lightning is around, you can store other things in the tins.

One more thing regarding lightning.  Experts are divided on whether grounding the mast protects you or not.  The real life results of lightning hits are diverse and highly unpredictable, hence many conflicting (yet true) anecdotes.  If you do ground the mast like we do, be sure to route the ground wire inside a plastic electrical conduit where it passes through the cabin.  Without the conduit, when the wire vaporizes, it can fling molten copper in every direction.  Surely you don't want to be in a confined space with naked copper wire.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Enroute ICW, Surf City NC
34 28.80 N 077 28.99 W

A great advantage to writing your own blog is that your can air your pet peeves without contradiction.  Today, I'm going to indulge.

The waterway is not a superhighway.   It is not a highway at all.  People who drive their boats as they do their cars on the highway are a menace.  

  • The other day, coming into Beaufort, two sailboats and a megayacht came up behind us.  Megayacht?  Yes, it was maybe 80 feet long and according to our AIS, even its dinghy towed behind was equipped with it's own AIS transmitter.  That's right.  We saw both the vessel Twilight and the vessel T/T Twilight on the AIS about 50 feet apart.

    Anyhow, as I approached a bend in the channel they all caught up with me. Twilight got on the VHF and asked for permission to pass, very professionally.  I said, "Come ahead Captain on my port side. I'll slow down for you."     But I looked behind and the first of the sailboats was less than one boat length behind my stern, and the second sailboat a boat length behind the second boat's stern.  I called on the VHF; "Sailboat on my stern, I'm going to slow down."  No response; I dared not slow.  He probably didn't listen to the radio.  So what happened.  Both sailboats pulled out to pass on my port simultaneously with Twilight passing.  Twilight was forced to the extreme port side and Tarwathie forced to the extreme starboard.

    Even though the channel may be as wide as a three lane highway, it isn't  It is more like a one lane highway with wide shoulders.  The shoulders may or may not be dredged to minimum depth.  The overtaking boat has the burden.  The overtaken boat has the privilege of maintaining course and speed right down the middle.  It is a courtesy to ask the overtaken boat to move to the side and/or slow down.

    What did those sailboats do wrong?  In chronological order:  1) They should have anticipated Twilight would pass, and hung back.   2) They should never have planned to pass exactly on a bend.  3) They should have listened to Twilight on the radio.  4) They should not have tailgated me or each other.  5) They should have listened to me on the radio and acknowledged.  6) They should not have passed me while Twilight was already passing.  That's an awful lot of errors in 90 seconds.

  • On two occasions yesterday sailboats passed us as we were passing under a 65 foot bridge.   That's an absolute no no.  When passing under a bridge you are likely to encounter sudden, strong, unexpected gusts of wind or bursts of cross currents.  You must be at highest vigilance and ready to correct course deviations.  To pass another boat at that time is lunacy.  Even meeting a boat coming the other way under a ridge is something to avoid if possible.

  • Approaching the inlet near Swansboro, the waters were mobbed by small boats.  Most of them were anchored and fishing.  There were hundreds of them.  Other boats were in a big hurry to get out to sea via the inlet or in a hurry to get to some other fishing spot.  They zoomed past at speeds between 30 and 65 miles per hour, weaving in an out among boats.  Libby and I were horrified.  That's much too fast for congested conditions.  Fatal accidents are likely.

    Also, even though high speed boats make very little wake, that does not mean that they should come as close as 3 feet to other boats.  Good grief.  That close at that speed even a sneeze can lead to a collision.
The USCG rules of the road are not explicit on any of those things.   I think boater education should cover such common sense rules that go beyond the law.  After all, the inexperienced boater violating those rules is most likely to injure himself or his boat first.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

p.s. We sat out the nice balmy weather at Oriental.  Now, we're facing a whole week of adverse winds, while motoring down the ICW.   Libby is disappointed to say the least.  She wants to be out at sea.  The first opportunity appears to be next Saturday, the 22nd.  Meanwhile we're poking along.  Mile Hammock last night.  Wrightsville Beach tonight.   We're going to try to get in to Carolina Beach State Park Monday night.  Never been there.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Rainbow Pic

Oriental Public Dock
35 01.49 N 076 41.73 W

Is is worth it to bring Tarwathie on a 4000 mile round trip to Lake Champlain every year?  Was it worth the trouble and expense to put the mast up?   Yes yes yes, thousand times yes.  Sometimes, it only takes one magic moment to make everything worthwhile.   So was the case August 22, on Lake Champlain in Shelburne Bay.  The picture of Tarwathie below is not faked or retouched in any way.

Click on the image to see it full screen and uncropped.  Look closely at the upper right and you can see a second rainbow.  The wide angle lens was not wide enough to capture the 2nd of the double rainbow.  It really was a magic moment.

You can download a high resolution copy of the picture here. It was taken by, Brian McPhee; a professional photographer.  He just happened to be anchored near us that evening and in a perfect place to make the shot.  Professional photographers can be prickly if their work is misued.  Brian gave permission to post it to my blog.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hurry - go, No hurry -stop

Oriental Public Dock
35 01.49 N 076 41.73 W

Yesterday, George and Carol from Traumeri drove down from New Bern to say hello.  We all went out for pizza.  Oriental is a fun place.

It was our plan to leave this morning, heading for a weather window starting Sunday to go out to sea from Cape Fear.   Well, this morning when I got up, I rechecked the weather first thing.  The supposed window on Sunday vanished.   Now the earliest possible window is a week from today.   So, we changed plans.  We'll stay here one more day.  I'll wave to the web cam.

That is a recurring pattern in our migrations.   We hope for a window.  When it doesn't come, we stay on the ICW and motor.  After a while, we begin to get frustrated; longing for the open sea.   Oh well, such is the life of the East Coastal Cruiser.

I have a mission today.  Al, the previous owner of Tarwathie, has a new boat, Maylay, that is up on the hard here in Oriental.  He asked me to check her out.  However, he can't remember which boat yard it is in.  I'll visit them all until I find the right one.

By the way, Libby and I got our morning belly laugh from this article.  Read it out loud to your partner, you'll love it.

My Droid is misbehaving.  First it was the on/off switch, now it is the touch screen. I think it has salt air disease.  (Most consumer electronics on board suffer that fate.)  I pay the insurance fee for all hazards, but to invoke that, I have to have a new phone sent to  a snail mail address.  What address to use when we're on the road?  I have a good candidate in Fernandina Beach, FL.  However how long will it take us to get there?  One to three weeks.  That's not precise enough for the insurance company.  When they send out a new phone, I only have a few days to return the broken one or else they charge me $500.  

Snail mail is one of the most vexing problems when living a nomadic life.  It was much better in Sweden in the 80s.  There, any ordinary letter mailed today, would reliably get to the destination anywhere in the country the next morning.  All mail was express mail.  I don't know if they still maintain that today.  It was nice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whole Again

Oriental Public Docks
35 01.49 076 41`.73 W

See us on the Oriental Harborcam. Until Thursday morning.

Well, it's been a busy few days.  We had a great time with Dave & Cathy.  They like to spoil their guests and we didn't object.

Dave drove us back to Hancock Creek Monday evening.  Soon after he left to drive home I realized that our bag containing computers, wires, batteries, phones, and cords of all kinds was left in David's trunk.  Oh no!  Could I live with no Internet for 24 hours?  It was hard but I did it.  Dave mailed the bag to general delivery Oriental, and I picked it up this morning.

Also this morning we left Hancock Creek Marina.  Jeff & Wendy and all the other people there were great.  We said it before and we'll say it again -- North Carolinian hospitality is the best.

I also got a delivery from Beta Marine with new air cleaners at Oriental.  That's been on the list for a while. Auto parts stores were unable to find an equivalent size.

Good news  -- The Provision Company is back!  Since 2005, The Provision Company in Oriental has been our favorite alternative to West Marine for all things marine.  Last spring it closed, apparently out of business.  Today, it's back -- apparently with new owners.    I bought a new bilge pump and float switch.

Another thing on my list since Irene has been the fact that our automatic bilge pump was broken.  (We have an emergency electric bilge pump and a manual bilge pump as backups.)   The emergency bilge pump lowers the water barely below the floor level under the fresh water tanks.  I now think that was the cause of constant wet under the water tanks.  I removed and replumbed one tank at the DSC Welcome Center, and the other tank at Hancock Marina.   Neither of those stopped the leak.  Now I believe that was unnecessary.   However, it wan't wasted.  The tanks needed cleaning and the plumbing needed renewal anyhow.

I'm unhappy with our old bilge pump (see the picture above).  It was a fancy kind that has a built-in electronic water level sensor that should be immune to contamination and debris.  It was only two years old.  The sensor failed, causing the pump to run constantly which in turn caused the pump motor to fail.  Never again.  The KISS principle applies.  A mercury float switch is simple.  I'll stick with those.

By the way, my latest theory about our leak is that it is the shaft log.  Yesterday I took everything apart to make a visual inspection of that area.  The floor was wet back there.   I suspected the hose clamps, but no -- they were find.  I wiped up all the wetness and moments later some drops appeared from the shaft log.  Aha!   Fixing it, is something else.  I can't tighten the lower bolt without removing the propeller shaft, and I can't re-seat the log while the boat is in the water.  Sounds like we'll have to live with that leak until the next time we're on the hard.  It's only a gallon a day.  It doesn't threaten us unless we were to leave the boat unattended for a week or more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Different things.

Zebulon, NC

Yesterday Dave and I did something we've never done before.  We built a new PC from components.  We had parts and advice from my grandson Bobby.  Guess what -- it worked first time when we turned it on!  That is despite the fact that we had lots of leftover parts, and leftover wires that didn't plug into anything.   Then Dave installed Windows 7, piece of cake. Then we plugged in a network cable -- bingo we were online. I installed Google chrome and AVG antivirus.  We're in business.

Hats off to Bobby for the encouragement and good advice.

Dave's real objective with this PC is to dedicate it as a games machine.    Somehow I doubt that.  It will get used for lots more than games.

Doing all that is easier and cheaper than I imagined.   If I were a landlubber today I would set up my own dedicated games PC with 3-5 video monitors and run the flight simulator programs.

Something else new. now offers many ways to format and to browse this blog.  Some of them look very useful and very attractive to read on a large monitor.  However, I think regular readers are used to the way it looks and feels today so I'm reluctant to change.   What a shame they don't offer the option for each reader (as opposed to each blog author) to choose the look and feel.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Libby's Latest

Zebulon, North Carolina

Below is Libby's latest. This one is decorated with walnut slices. She made it as a house gift for Cathy and Dave.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Cherry Point MCAS

We remarked several times before how hospitable the people of North Carolina are.  Noplace is is more evident than here at Hancock Yacht Club.  We come here foremost to visit with our friends Jeff and Wendy on the W32 Calypso.  However, once we get here all the other people at the club are wonderfully friendly and welcoming.  

The club is on the property of the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.  It can be noisy.  We're near the end of the runway so low-flying military planes are passing over all the time.  Also, at times we hear the boom boom of artillery and explosive training.

They have a tradition of meeting at the yacht club tiki bar every day at 1630.  That's very nice, at least on warm days.  But even on cool days they bundle themselves up in extra layers of clothes and sit there on the waterfront.

The marina suffered damage and sunk one boat during Hurricane Irene, as did almost everyone along the Neuse River.  Where Tarwathie is tied up, the pilings stick 8 feet above the water.  The piling next to us has scrapings of a sailboats bottom paint on the top of the piling.  Imagine what it must have looked like out here when that happened.

Saturday/Sunday we'll be in Zebulon with Dave & Cathy.  :)  Probably no blogs those days.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Amazing Story

Oriental, NC

We spent the night at Oriental. (Sorry, we're not visible on the web cam.)   Lots of Hurricane Irene damage here.

I very seldom repost news stories on this blog.  Today, I found a story so astounding, I'm making an exception.  See below from The Navy Times.

Fishing crew details mistaken attack by DDG
By Sam Fellman - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Oct 4, 2011 9:57:30 EDT

Fisherman Jimmie Eady was packing the afternoon’s catch of red grouper and triggerfish into the hold of his 35-foot-long boat on Aug. 17 when he heard the first round hit.

It landed with a thunderclap in the Atlantic Ocean about 75 feet from Zig-Zag, Eady’s commercial fishing boat, which had been fishing roughly 48 miles off the North Carolina coast. The round kicked up a splash large enough to soak Zig-Zag’s deck and canopy. The impact jarred the boat.

Then, moments later, came another roar. This one splashed closer. And another.

The hits encircled the boat, raising a shroud of spray. After a momentary shock, Eady and his two crew members realized they were being bombarded by the deck gun of one of the Navy warships about eight miles away.

“Cease fire! Cease fire!” Eady shouted into his VHF radio as more 5-inch gun rounds pounded the water. “You’re gonna kill us!”

A round landed 20 feet off the bow, Eady recalled, right as the warships began to repeat “cease fire” on bridge-to-bridge channel 16. The gun fell silent. Fourteen inert rounds had been fired. Zig-Zag wasn’t damaged and no one was hurt — the immediate aftermath was “just some shook-up fishermen,” Eady later recounted. The 49-year-old fisherman pulled up the anchor and gunned the motor, steering away from the warships.

Eady and his crew had become the inadvertent target of the destroyer The Sullivans, which was conducting a gunnery exercise against what it thought was a towed target in the Cherry Point Operating Area off North Carolina. After an investigation into the incident, the destroyer’s commanding officer was fired Sept. 7 — which was to be the ship’s deployment date — and the ship was ordered to recertify under a new CO. The new requirement delayed the ship’s deployment, forcing the Navy to extend the deployment of the cruiser Monterey, a ballistic-missile defense ship in 6th Fleet that has already been deployed for six months.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Easy LIfe or Hard Life?

Ocracoke Coffee Company
35 06.73 N 075 58.61 W

Yesterday I went to the beach on my bicycle.  I've never been there before.  What a great beach!  It looks much like the beach at Cumberland Island.  It is about 16 miles long, nice sand, backed by a barrier dune, and populated by lots of birds and shells.  The water was pretty warm too.  We are really close to the Gulf Stream here.  

I think I'll go back to the beach again this afternoon.

This morning I worked on a stack of three electrical problems that needed repair. My list of projects never hits bottom.  On the other hand, I never give up.  On the average, I think the backlog of projects waiting attention stays about constant.   

I also found that our engine air filter was very dirty.  I never checked it before.  I figured (incorrectly it seems) that there was no source for dust in that engine compartment so the filter would never get dirty.  Wrong.  There's no place on Ocracoke to buy a new one so it will have to wait a few days.

Libby found a roadside taco stand called Eduardo's.  She bought two burritos for supper last night. They were huge.  We got two meals out of each.

Tonight we have a Balderdash tournament arranged.  We have a pretty cosmopolitan Eagroup too.  Ourselves, a couple from Prince Edward Island Canada, and a third couple from The Cayman Islands.  The Cayman Islanders came here in a little motor boat that doesn't look at all like a cruising vessel.  They are intrepid though.  They watched carefully for a weather window and made the ocean passage from Cayman to Cuba, then they did it again from Cuba to the Florida Keys.  After that it has been ICW all the way.  Cool.

So, I did three hours work in two days and here I am complaining about how hard life is.  

p.s. The fresh water leak I repaired last week is diminished but still leaking.  It leaks about a gallon per day.  Sigh, I'll have to remove, inspect and re-plumb the after tank.  That's a lot harder than the forward tank.