The 3-4 weeks of actual work on Andante stretched over two full months to accommodate the holidays. It was great to be home and see everyone and eat way too much. But now its January, its cold, and we need to get south. As fast as this moderately slow boat can go.
We left Bock Marine on January 4 for a short trip to Beaufort. It was good to get underway again and test out the new steering and engine controls for the first time. Everything worked smoothly and we anchored for the night in Taylor Creek on the Beaufort downtown waterfront. I assembled dinghy and motored the 100 yards to shore for a nice dinner with Bill and Anne. From the anchorage I could see some of the wild horses on Carrot Island frolicking on the beach. Never mind that all I have to share are still pictures of seemingly relaxed horses. There was indeed frolicking.
The next day we stuck our head out into the Atlantic and sailed south for an hour before deciding the conditions were not at all what was forecast. It was very windy and rough with frequent heavy rain squalls. Not fun, so we turned around and headed back in the inlet.
Its easy to second-guess a decision like that. But after deciding to return to port not only was I immediately more comfortable, I was reassured by two significant good omens: A big pod of dolphins began following the boat and leaping alongside as soon as I turned around. And upon entering the inlet we were greeted with a full rainbow.
We anchored for the night near the Coast Guard base in Morehead City. It wasn’t a particularly quiet anchorage but was convenient to the ICW and allowed us to get an early start the next morning. With the very short periods of fair weather between frontal systems its looking like we’ll continue south along the ICW rather than offshore – at least for now.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’m back on Andante after a nice holiday at home. Santa was very generous this year.
There are only a few more jobs to complete in the yard before getting underway early next week. The weather forecast for the next couple of days looks pretty sloppy so we’ll most likely stay put until Tuesday. Then we’ll relocate to an anchorage a few miles south of here in downtown Beaufort for fuel, water, and last minute supplies.
After that we’ll move to Cape Lookout to wait for appropriate weather to head south. At this point the first anticipated stop is about 85 miles away in Southport, NC at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. From there its another easy sail to Charleston, SC. That seems to be the best location for a jump to the Bahamas — but the Covid situation is changing rapidly.
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.
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.
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 —
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.