Phase I: Complete

That was fun.

We arrived at Bock Marine on Core Creek in Beaufort, NC a little past noon on Monday. The sail from Broad Creek was uneventful with winds 25-30 and following seas. High water due to the wind combined with a maximal lunar tide resulted in lots of flooding in the Beaufort / Morehead City area — and reduced the air draft under the Core Creek Bridge to 63.5 feet. Which we cleared without a problem. Whew.

Tied to the pier at Bock Marine just past the Core Creek Bridge

Initially we expected to be hauled almost immediately upon arrival. But the Travelift (and specifically its starter) had other ideas. Turns out the delay was a good thing as it enabled Bill and Anne to visit and actually board the boat and sit with me for a while — something that would have been far more difficult once we’re hauled and and the only access is a 20 foot ladder.

This unit has a bad motivator
Welcome aboard Bill and Anne!

I’m still getting settled in, meeting the yard staff, and learning where everything is and how things work. The facilities appear to be very good and the people are super friendly. I expect a couple of months here will not be too uncomfortable. Dirty and noisy and occasionally cold? Yes, probably. But overall a good place to get some important boat work done and prepare Andante (and me) for whatever comes next.

Latest from the yard is that we’ll be hauled mid-morning tomorrow (Wednesday). First order of business will be to get the bottom as clean as possible (pressure wash then hand scrape) so the state of the existing paint can be evaluated. My guess is that all of the old bottom paint will have to come off. Then I’ll fair the surface, apply an epoxy barrier coat and several coats of new ablative antifouling paint. While she’s out of the water I’ll also replace the steering and engine control cables, repair or replace a couple of seacocks, repitch the prop and finish stripping all the varnish from the toe and hand rails. And I’m looking forward to all of it —

One More Gale and 25 Miles to Go

The end is near. At least for now.

Yesterday we completed a relatively short hop from Belhaven to Broad Creek on the Neuse River. Along the way we passed the first (but certainly not the last) shrimp boat of the trip and a small Coast Guard station near the Hobucken Bridge.

Shrimp boat at R.E. Mayo Seafood
USCG Station Hobucken

After getting tossed around a bit in Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River we pushed as far up Broad Creek as our draft would allow and found a snug spot close to shore to wait out another gale.

Anchored close to shore. Decks cleared and everything tied down. Wood smoke and owls.
Better in here than out there.

The winds and rain should start any time now and persist through tomorrow. Hopefully by Monday morning nice weather will return and we’ll set off towards Beaufort, NC and the final destination of this leg of our trip: Bock Marine. With 25 nm to go we should arrive at the yard shortly after lunch.

While waiting for the storm I’ve made some changes to the other pages on this site. Comments and suggestions for further improvement are welcome.

Jersey Shore

Long day. Good fun.

Only short-in-stature, challenged-in-draft vessels can navigate the intracoastal waterway protected by the Jersey Shore’s barrier islands. Unlike the ICW south from Norfolk, VA the New Jersey segment is very shallow and the fixed bridges that cross it are shorter than the 65 ft standard. So real boats need to head out into the Atlantic at Sandy Hook and sail offshore to Cape May, a distance of about 120 nm. There are a few inlets in between that can be used to break up the trip (notably Atlantic City) — but we chose to press on and get it done in one 24-hour period.

Friday afternoon we filled the fuel tank, refilled the snack locker, and gave the engine a thorough checkup. On Saturday morning we left the Atlantic Highlands boat basin at dawn. It took more than two hours to navigate north around Sandy Hook, into the Atlantic, and then back south along the beach to the latitude of our starting point. There were lots (LOTS) of little fishing boats for the first few hours. I didn’t see anyone actually catch anything, but from the volume and diversity of boats (and the salty language on the radio) you could tell these folks were serious about their sport.

The Atlantic Highlands boat basin has an amazing view of downtown Manhattan.
After much messing about in inland bays and sounds it was a good to finally be out in the ocean and heading in the right direction.

Weather conditions were generally good with a few clouds and a light drizzle in the morning. A few scattered showers were predicted for the evening. It was cool enough and with enough rain potential that I put up the bimini to provide a windbreak and keep the cockpit somewhat dry. And I bundled up too.

Winds were light and from behind. On a flat sea we probably could have sailed the whole way but with a 2-3 foot quartering swell we were rolling and the sails were not effective on their own. So the engine ran for the first half of the trip to keep us moving at a reasonable pace. The genoa did help stabilize the boat as long as there was enough wind to keep it full. To escape the noise and smell I spent time forward of the cockpit as conditions allowed.

An almost glassy Atlantic

The Jersey shore is not particularly photogenic from 1-2 miles offshore. In some areas there were lots of little cottages and families at the beach, in others the entire beachfront looked commercial. Each of the towns was different, none more so than Atlantic City. The high-rise buildings were visible from more than 20 miles away in daylight and the gaudy lights further still after dark.

Barnegat Inlet is known for its occasionally rough and dangerous conditions. The wreckage of a sailboat was being cleared as we sailed past. The Barnegat Lighthouse is one of the taller and more attractive along the coast.

With the glassy conditions I was disappointed to see no whales. But I was ecstatic to see some brown pelicans. These are generally warm-climate birds that migrate to the mid-Atlantic states in summer and are very rarely seen as far north as Cape Cod. More evidence that we are making significant progress southward.

An afternoon rain shower provided some interesting colors. The full rainbow was visible but I was unable to get a photo of the complete arch as my camera lens wasn’t wide enough.

Right around sunset the wind picked up as a few more small storms passed over us This let us shut down the engine and sail for the second half of the trip. It was glorious cruising along at 7 kts on a starry, moonlit night.

Storm coming
Moonlight

Cape May is a well-protected harbor with an easy-to-navigate inlet. Which is good, because I had to navigate it at 0400 this morning after 22 hours of sailing. Fortunately there was still some moonlight. And also GPS. And radar. And a very effective range. And lighted channel markers. And I had studied other accounts of finding the anchorage in the dark. So using just those few tools we found a nice spot to anchor just off the beach adjacent to the Coast Guard training facility. And then went to bed.

We are literally a stones throw from the beach. We’re well-protected from the weather. Not so protected from the fisherfolk who started zooming by before 6 this morning.
Coast Guard training facility in Cape May

From Cape May the fundamental routing decision is whether to continue south on the outside to Norfolk, or head inshore up the Delaware Bay, across the C&D Canal, and down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. I’m looking forward to having some family visit us in the Annapolis area — so we’ll be taking the inshore route this time.

Today, besides napping, I’m working on planning our transit of Delaware Bay and the C&D canal. It looks like the weather should be passable tomorrow – not perfect, but workable – and the all-important tides and currents align nicely with daylight hours. The leg from Cape May to Chesapeake City (near the Maryland end of the C&D canal) is about 75 nm but should take less than 10 hours if we can ride a favorable tide the whole way. A substantial gale is expected Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes according to plan we’ll ride that out in Chesapeake City. From there its on to Annapolis, then down the Chesapeake to Norfolk to join the ICW.

Nicely chilled

Refrigeration work complete. Onward.

We spent the last few days in Mystic undergoing a much-needed upgrade to Andante’s refrigeration system. After two days of ripping out the old and installing the new we now have a modern, efficient, and quiet 12V system (a Seafrost Tradewinds XP) that will keep our freezer and refrigerator boxes well-chilled when the engine is not in use. Yay cold drinks and firm cheese and not-so-funky mayonnaise. It was a messy job made somewhat more challenging by my living aboard during the work but the end result is worth it.

The entire galley had the be disassembled and the contents of all the lockers removed. The final result is a nice clean installation with even more storage space than before. But my shoes are still under the table.

The company that did the refrigeration work (Cool Boats LLC) secured us a slip in downtown Mystic between the railroad swing bridge (Amtrak trains several times per hour) and the old bascule drawbridge (endless parade of tourists). We were docked right between the two bridges and could watch the action all day long.

The Mystic River railroad bridge viewed from our dock. The bridge is normally closed to accommodate the frequent trains but swings open on request for boats.
Looking north from our dock is Main Street and the Mystic River highway bridge, a 1922 bascule drawbridge. A few afternoon clouds threatened but the weather was ideal our entire stay.
Andante at the dock for repairs. Tim from Cool Boats does nice work.

Upriver less than a mile is the Mystic Seaport Museum. There was a steady stream of beautiful wooden schooners passing just off our transom on the way to tie up at the museum.

The schooner Roseway passing off our stern.
And the schooner Harvey Gamage doing the same.
The schooner Argia moored just below the highway bridge. Tim, the technician that installed our new refrigeration system, used to captain this ship as well as others in the Mystic area and the Caribbean. It was fun talking with him while he worked.

After putting the interior of the boat back together late this morning we repositioned from downtown Mystic to West Harbor on Fisher Island. It was only about an hours steam down the river but it feels like an entirely different planet. Quiet, secluded, and a nice gentle breeze that doesn’t smell like boatyard and restaurants. And nice clear water.

Lately I’ve been noticing increased vibrations and noise when motoring at cruising speed. For some weeks I’ve suspected hard growth on the propeller and prop shaft but have been unable to do much about it because the visibility has been so bad. I took advantage of the clear water in Fishers Island Sound to investigate using the GoPro-on-a-stick contraption that Alex and I figured out earlier this summer. Once growth on the prop was confirmed I took advantage of the sunny, relatively calm afternoon, squeezed into my wetsuit, and went for a refreshing swim in the 60 degree water to scrape away all the growth with a putty knife. Mission accomplished in less than 5 minutes. I’m hopeful that this will lessen the vibrations since there is a lot of motoring in our future.

Video frame capture from a GoPro camera attached to the end of a pole lowered from Dinghy. There were several medium-sized barnacles on the prop blades.

We are anchored just outside of West Harbor positioned for a quick exit early tomorrow morning. There are supposed to be strong winds from the south that should make for good sailing. With an early start to avoid the strongest adverse currents we will try to sail about 50 miles west to Milford, CT. From there it will be just one more 40 nm hop to City Island, then into the East River and through New York Harbor to Sandy Hook. But one step at a time.

Note: I’ve put the link to the tracker on its own page accessible through the top menu.

The final countdown

Packing. Lots of Packing.

Over the past few months our little dinghy has shuttled hundreds of pounds of parts and tools and building materials out to Andante on her summer mooring in Red Brook Harbor. I’ve worked on plenty of invasive, messy projects this summer that left a wake of bits and pieces about the boat. In addition to updating her sailing hardware I’ve completed many engine, electrical and plumbing tasks. But this week the focus shifted to preparing to depart Massachusetts in the narrow window between the end of hurricane season and the arrival of colder weather. Last week the emphasis was on removing all the excess materials and tools left over from my various projects. This week its been all about provisioning for the next month or two. That means lots of fuel and water, lots of spare parts, clothes for a variety of conditions and lots and lots of food.

Load after load of food, clothes, and spare parts.

Andante can swallow an enormous amount of gear in her myriad lockers and drawers – and also in the double-secret cubbyholes hidden inside her lockers and drawers. Storage capacity is a wonderful thing and I’m not complaining. But I really need to develop a foolproof inventory system that allows one to find things again after they’ve been carefully stowed. I’m working on a searchable Excel spreadsheet that documents the contents of every single storage locker and cubby. Some sort of database app might be a future improvement.

I really enjoy cooking and am looking forward to spending lots of time trying new things in the galley this winter. Andante is equipped with a great 3-burner stove with oven and a large freezer and refrigerator. We have an appointment next week at Cool Boats in Mystic, CT to have her 12v refrigeration system upgraded – so for the first few days of the trip I will have no refrigeration. Until then fresh food storage will be limited to a minimally-insulated bag filled with ice cubes for just the critical cold items (eggs, butter, cheese, cream). For the next few days I’ll be eating more canned foods and ramen than fresh fish and veggies.

The weather is looking good for a departure this weekend. At some point I hope to add a live tracking functionality to this site.