Doin the Charleston – 3/30/16

First of All -

  • First tour of an Historic City Hall

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,769
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.57
  • Wind Speed: 15; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 68
  • Water Temperature: 66

DSCF2305We’ve set this day aside to tour Charleston. We spent time seeing visiting this city in 2003, so we’ll try to do a few different things this time. We arrange for the marina shuttle to drop us off at the main visitor center, where I buy tickets for a guided motor tour of the City, coupled with a tour of one of the City’s historic homes. We’ll do our tours in the afternoon, and spend the first part of our day on our own. We take the free trolley down to the waterfront, where we have our picture taken in front of the beautiful pineapple fountain. We then walk by the Old Exchange Building, which we toured last time, and over to the City Hall building. This imposing structure was built in theDSCF2312 late 1800’s and is still used as City Hall. It’s open to the public, and we’re able to go up to the second floor, where the Council Chambers are located. The room is actually fairly small in terms of floor area, but the ceilings are high, and the rich, dark paneled walls are covered with portraits. It’s more like an art gallery than a council chambers. The City actually has a full time docent who tells us about the paintings and other artifacts on display there. This building stands at the corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. On one of the other corners St. Michaels Church is located, with state and federal court buildings located on the other corners. Around here they refer to this location as “the four corners of the law”, supposedly the only place in the country where, on four corners of one intersection you can find city law, state law, federal law, and God’s law. We take a few moments to look inside St. Michaels, an Anglican Church with a beautiful front altar and a fascinating history. It’s the oldest church building in Charleston, dating to 1761 and sitting on the site of a church which dates back to the 1680’s. Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee visited this church, and they worshipped in the same pew. During the seige of Charleston in the Civil War, a Union shell burst in the chancel, and a scar from that shell can be seen at the base of the pulpit.

By now we’re getting tight on time for our tours, which start back at the visitor center at 1pm. We grab fast food at a Subway and eat on the run, as we hustle up Meeting Street, getting there with 10 minutes to spare. It’s hard to be moving so quickly through this fascinating City, but at least we’ll be able to sit back on the bus and take a bit of a break. Our driver and guide is very knowledgeable and engaging. He takes us on an extended tour of the City, covering far more territory than the horse drawn or foot tours can. We go through historically and architecturally interesting neighborhoods, and through the Citadel campus, which is rich in tradition and which has educated and trained many of our country’s great military leaders. We get dropped off at the Joseph Manigault House, built in 1803, and we’re taken on a guided tour of this beautifully preserved home. It’s owned by the City’s historical society, and it contains some lovely period furniture.

After visiting the Manigault House we walk across the street, to the Visitor Center where we started out this morning. We take in a well done 30 minute film on the history of Charleston, and then step outside to wait for Annie. Annie is a fellow MacGregor owner who came across this blog back in the fall, just as we were getting off Lake Michigan. When we got close to Charleston, her home, she contacted us by email, expressing a desire to meet up. She dropped by the boat yesterday afternoon and we made plans to have dinner together today. She swings by the Visitor Center after work and takes us to Leons Oyster Shop, a well known neighborhood restaurant which is well off the tourist trail. After mingling all day with throngs of tourists, it’s just the place to hang out, enjoy dinner, and talk boats. Since we own the same type of boat we have much in common. Annie has just recently bought her boat and it’s really fun to see the enthusiasm she has for taking it out. We hope that she and her boat share many happy times out on the water together.

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Anchored in the lee of Fort Sumter – 3/31/16

First of All -

  • We’re the first ever passangers in Ashley Marina’s new courtesy shuttle van

Namely Speaking-

  • Shutes Folly Island
  • Fort Moultrie
  • Swinton Creek

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 12; Sail: 1
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,782
  • Hours Underway: 3
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.47
  • Wind Speed: 10-12; Wind Direction: E
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF2361Most marina courtesy cars and vans we’ve driven or ridden in have been real wrecks. Air conditioning doesn’t work, signs are taped to the sliding door “Do not open”, the hand grips on the steering wheel are spongy and broken free from the metal core, the electric door locks don’t work, the seat belts don’t latch, etc. Today, however, we’re in for a treat. When we call for our courtesy shuttle ride into town to provision at the Harris Teeter Grocery Store, our friendly driver John slides open the door of a brand new van. He tells us that the marina is retiring the old one, and we are the first ever guests to be given a ride in their new van. The Harris Teeter is a refreshing change as well, being a clearly upscale grocery with very nice meat, produce and deli departments. After checking out I phone for our pickupDSCF2378 ride.

Back at the boat we go through the drill of washing produce, putting meats into zip loc bags, and repackaging things like cashew nuts, instant coffee, and dry cereal. I empty our wastebasket and toss out the empty food packaging, buy a sack of ice, and we’re ready to go. I enlist two guys who are on the sailboat behind us to help us shove off, and by 12:30pm we’re underway. It’s a bit breezy and choppy, but I’m hoping we can get out to Ft. Sumter. We cruise out past the historic grand mansions along Battery Street, and get a distant look at the USS Yorktown, which is on exhibit across the Cooper River at Patriots Point. We see a big cruise ship docked in the Cooper River as well. The water out on Charleston Bay isn’t as rough as I’d feared, and it looks like Ft. Sumter will give us a nice DSCF2384lee to anchor in. We ease past the large fixed dock, where the tourist shuttle boats tie up, and drop anchor in front of the storied fort, just south of the long dock. We row the dinghy over to the dock, tie up there, and climb the ladder to the top of the pier, just as a shuttle boat disgorges its load of tourists. We get some funny looks, almost as if we were cutting the line, as we climb over the railing and join the procession toward the fort. We take our time wandering around on the parapets, and walking outside the walls on the seaward side, looking out to sea, where the Union blockading fleet stood station to intercept blockage runners and periodically shell the fort. Inside the fort we gaze at the great guns, many of which actually participated in the battle which signaled the start of the CivilDSCF2386 War. We learn that Federal shelling reduced the 3 story brick fort to a pile of rubble over the course of the war. The fort was rebuilt in a much different configuration and stood guarding Charleston Harbor during the Spanish American War of 1898, and all the way up to the end of World War II. A fascinating museum is located on one of the newer sections of the fort, and it houses some remarkable artifacts, including the US flag which flew over the fort during the Confederate attack on April 12, 1861. The museum also displays the very first Confederate flag raised over the fort after their victory, a large South Carolina state flag. It seems ironic that this opening act of the Civil War, which still remains the most costly war, in terms of loss of life, in our nation’s history, resulted in no deaths on either side, and only 5 federal soldiers suffered injuries.

Around 3:30pm we row back out to the boat and start across the ship channel, toward the ICW. Before we get across, however, I am compelled to alter course. A large container ship is inbound and, although it initially looks like I’ll have plenty of time to cross ahead of the ship, after a few minutes of studying our relative positions, I wisely alter course and point out to sea while the huge container ship DSCF2391cruises up the ship channel. The speed of these large ships is very deceiving. If I’d continued on my original course I could have quickly gotten into serious trouble. My next problem is the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge. I knew this bridge was ahead of us on the ICW, however, I only planned on going about 4 miles up the waterway, and I didn’t check the chart closely enough. I assumed it would be beyond my intended anchorage. This most definitely turns out to not be the case. It stands just a mile north of Charleston Harbor, and it does not open during rush hours of 4 to 6pm. It’s now just a few minutes before 4pm. I radio the bridge and confirm that it won’t open until 6pm. This is less of an inconvenience than it might appear, since we’re not going far. We simply cruise up close to the bridge and drop anchor in the mouth of the small bay on the north side of the channel. Sandy fixes a simple hot dog dinner while we’re waiting, and by the time dinner is done, it’s time for the bridge to open. At 6pm sharp, the highway bridge swings open and we’re free to proceed. We cruise another 4 miles, pass under a high fixed bridge, and turn into a small creek on the port side. We slowly motor past a couple of docks, weave around a few small fishing boats, and drop anchor at a bend in the creek, where I find just enough depth and channel width for a nice night’s stop.

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Engine Won’t Start! – April Fools (I wish)

First of All -

  • First time needing a tow
  • First engine problem without a simple, prompt diagnosis and rep

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 0; Sail: 0; Under Tow: 12
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,794
  • Hours Underway: 1 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.44
  • Wind Speed: 22 maximum ; Wind Direction: SE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF2420I’ve planned a long run for today, all the way up to Georgetown, South Carolina. I’m up early, and by 6:30 all set to go. Chartbook, binoculars, and camera in the cockpit. VHF, running and steaming lights, Garmin, and autopilot all turned on. Time to turn the engine on so I can raise the anchor. I turn the key to the on position and hear the familiar blaring beep, then I turn it the next little bit, to the start position and I hear: nothing. Instead of the familiar and reassuring turn of the starter, followed by the catch and purr of the engine, all is silent. Not good. I try again with the same result. I check to make sure the kill switch hasn’t pulled free. Nope, it’s right where it should be. I make sure the throttle is in neutral, and it is. The engine should be turning over and starting, but it most definitely is not. I’veDSCF2421 exhausted my limited mechanical options, and must now consider what to do next. My usual ploy is to call my dealer and trouble shoot the problem with him over the phone, but it’s 4:30am on the west coast, and I don’t think he’d appreciate a phone call at this hour. I can’t see sitting here for the next several hours doing nothing. I figure I need to get back to Charleston, where mechanics, parts, and transportation are available. I got unlimited tow insurance before this trip so I could deal with just this sort of situation. I call the TowBoatUS 24 hour assistance number, and get immediate response. They take down some information and dispatch a towboat. It will reach me in just over an hour. My next challenge is to figure out just where to be towed to. I end up settling on Charleston City Marina, where they have mechanic services on site. I call the marina and confirm that they have space on the inside for me, and I also get phone numbers for the two mechanic services that work in the marina. I call the one that provides 7 day a week service, since it’s Friday today, and I might stand a better chance of getting someone to look at the engine promptly with them. They tell me they have a mechanic at the marina today, and he’ll be able to examine the engine as soon as I get in.

Shortly after 9am the tow boat arrives. They raft up to our starboard side, and once lines are secure, I raise the anchor and they motor slowly out of the creek and into the main ICW channel. The tow boat captain tells me that up until 3 months ago the stretch of channel between the high bridge and the Ben Sawyer swing bridge was one of the worst sections on the ICW for shoaling. He said DSCF2422that he got a lot of towing business from that stretch of channel, and that it helped him put a couple of kids through college. However, that cash cow is temporarily defunct, thanks to a Corps of Engineers dredging operation last winter. Once we get out into the main channel he hands me a towing bridle, which I hook to my two bow cleats. With that secure, we release the lines which have kept us rafted up. HeDSCF2423 lets out about 40 feet of tow line and we proceed down the channel. I find I must keep the centerboard and rudders down I and help by steering our boat, to keep it tracking in a straight line behind the tow boat. We keep in touch on VHF channel 12. He radios the Ben Sawyer swing bridge as we draw near, and the bridge gives us a timely opening, enabling us to maintain speed on the approach. Just outside the marina he radios for slip assignment information. We stand off in the center of the channel, where I remove the towing bridle and we once again raft up for the entry into the marina. He easily docks our boat in the center of an 80 foot space along the inside of the megadock, which is probably close to half a mile long. I fill out some paperwork, and thank the towboat captain for his prompt and professional service.

After tidying up my dock lines I give the mechanic a call, to let him know we’re at the marina. Turns out he is as well, and in just a few minutes he shows up at the boat, towing a small cart loaded with his gear. I tell him what the engine was doing and not doing, and he begins troubleshooting. From the start it sounds like a problem with the ignition switch, so he removes it and, with the aid of the engine manual I have on board, he tests it out. His tests seem to confirm the diagnosis. He calls and locates a replacement, and takes off to fetch it. I should mention that all this while the air at the dock is dead still, warm and sultry. These conditions perfectly suit the no see ums and biting gnats. They’re out in force. I deploy my bug spray with a vengence, but it barely holds them at bay. By the time the mechanic returns, however, the weather has made a big change. A fierce wind kicks up out of nowhere, blowing directly at the megadock. Boats on the outside are being pummeled, and their owners are scrambling to adjust lines and deploy extra fenders. Waves break across the dock, sending wind driven spray across to our side. I quickly put up the cockpit surround, to provide a wind and spray break. The mechanic, Ryan is his name, emerges through this gale, promptly installs the new ignition switch, and hopefully turns the key. Nothing. We’re both hugely disappointed. He looks more deeply into the problem, checking to make sure the kill and neutral shift position switches both are working properly. They are. It’s a long and frustrating process, DSCF2425and at the end of it, we’re left with the prospect that the only two other possible causes are either a faulty ECM computer or some hidden flaw in a wire. The ECM is an astronomically expensive part (try $1600), and it almost never fails. A call to Blue Water Yachts, my dealer back home in Seattle, confirms that our engine warrantee still covers a part failure like that. The bad news, however, is that the local Suzuki dealership has a 2 week backlog on providing that kind of warrantee service. My dealer back home comes up with a plan, however, and will ship me one to try. It will arrive on Tuesday, which is a heck of a lot better than 2 weeks. The whole situation, however, is greatly unsettling. If the ECM doesn’t fix the problem we’re almost back to square one. We’re tied up in a pricey marina, with the clock ticking. And, we’re sitting nearly 500 miles away from Norfolk VA. Sandy plans to fly home from there on April 21 for a 2 week visit with kids and grandkids, and we’ve already purchased her ticket. Fortunately I had the good sense to buy flight insurance, although I’d sure hate to have to use it. All in all, this has easily been the most frustrating and discouraging day of the trip. To top it off, it’s pouring outside, with periodic thunder and lightning. Did I mention the tornado warning? I hate to leave things hanging like this, but I’ll probably not be posting again until the picture becomes a bit more clear.

Back in Business – 4/2/16

First of All -

  • First time needing a second visit from the outboard engine mechanic

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,782
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 15-18; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 75
  • Water Temperature: 69

DSCF2429This morning we discuss our situation and evaluate our options. We can either stay here on the megadock, paying megabucks for the privilege, for the next 3 or 4 nights while awaiting arrival of the ECM and allowing for repair time in the event that it doesn’t fix the problem. Alternately, we can limp out to the nearby anchorage, using the kicker for power. From there we would need to dinghy across the channel to the marina dinghy dock. Doing that would save money, but would be less than convenient. We would no longer have use of the courtesy shuttle for rides into Charleston. We would also not have access to wifi, showers or restrooms. After figuring the cost of using Uber for transportation, and the inconvenience of being anchored out, and especially in the windy conditions currently prevailing, we decide to go the extra expense and stay on the dock. Sandy decides to tote the computer up to the office, where a great internet connection is available. I hang around the boat, planning on doing some reorganizing and light maintenance. Just before noon my cell phone rings. It’s Ryan, the mechanic from Moxy Marine. It seems that he was nearly as frustrated as I was over not being able to fix the problemDSCF2431 yesterday. He spent a good deal of time at home pondering the problem and researching it on line. He wants to come back to the boat and try out a few new ideas. That sounds great to me. He’s here in a half hour, and he goes right to work. He runs a few more tests on the ignition switch and, while doing so, gets the engine to start. This happens while he’s working with the wire which delivers current from the switch to the engine. It only works a couple of times, but definitely tells us that it’s a wiring problem and not an ECM problem. He rigs a temporary jumper wire to the engine and it starts right up. This confirms that, somewhere in the wire run, there’s a flaw or break in continuity. This seems so unlikely, but nonetheless, that’s what’s causing all the trouble. We agree that the best solution is to simply run a new bypass wire from the ignition switch to the engine. We have a good clear path for the wire, and it’s fairly easy to do. He installs a spade connector on the engine end of the wire, and uses a heat shrink butt connector on the switch end. A few well placed zip ties tidy up the wire run, and he’s done. I turn the key and the engine starts right up. Music to my ears, and Ryan’s as well. I’m most appreciative of his determination and skill. By figuring out the problem today, we’ll be free to depart tomorrow, instead of having to wait here till Tuesday for the arrival of the ECM part from my dealer in Washington, which wouldn’t have fixed things in any event. It feels like a great burden has been lifted. I spend the balance of the afternoon preparing the boat for departure in the morning. While it’s been quite blustery all day today, the weather tomorrow is supposed to be much better. I plan on an early departure, since I will need to pass the Ben Sawyer swing bridge for yet a third time (hopefully, third time will be the charm). The bridge only opens on the hour on weekends, and I’m going to try and make a 7am opening.

Skinny water on the ICW-4/3/16

First of All -

  • First time grounding hard enough to break something
  • First alligator seen since leaving Florida
  • First biting fly (ouch!)

Namely Speaking-

  • Bullyard Sound
  • Copahee Sound
  • Francis Marion National Forest
  • Santee River
  • McClennenville

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 65; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,847
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.68
  • Wind Speed: 10-12 ; Wind Direction: NNW
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 66

DSCF2432Up early, since I want to clear the Ben Sawyer swing bridge by 7am. We’re off the dock by 6:05am, still pitch dark outside, a sliver of moon, just about like the crescent on the South Carolina state flag, overhead. I follow the track we made while being towed in day before yesterday, and we approach the bridge just as the sun is rising, a few minutes before 7. The bridge tender takes down our boat name and home port, and grants us a timely opening. Shortly afterward, we pass the creek entrance where our tow began, and we’re now on new water, making progress toward Norfolk. This is a major migration day, with at least a dozen cruising boats besides ourselves headed north. We’re out ahead of the fleet to start with, however, as the day progresses they all come up on our stern and execute courteous “slowDSCF2441 passes”, which usually involves a radio call confirming their intention to pass, my reply that I’ll slow down when they draw near, and they in turn cutting their throttle and reducing wake as they ease by. This protocol is all the more critical because this stretch of the ICW is narrow and notoriously shoaled. To make things worse, we’re passing the shallowest portions at low tide. I’m trying to take advantage of the NW breeze, and I’ve got my mainsail up, with centerboard halfway down and both rudders down and lifting lines cleated off, so they’re locked in the down position. Water depth ranges from 6 to 8 feet in most places, however, there’s this other place, which announces its presence with a sharp clunk. I immediately glance at the Garmin – we’re still in the charted channel but depth reading is 2 feet! I cut throttle and turn to port, searching for deeper water. I also reach back to uncleat the rudder lift lines and, to my dismay, I discover a loose line on the starboard side. We grounded hard enough to break the line. I check the port side rudder and find the same thing. I let the rudders trail behind in the down position while I search for a place to get off the channel and repair the breaks. Half a mile ahead I find a nice side channel which we turn into. I drop the mainsail, lower the anchor, and then examine more closely the broken rudder lines. I’m pleased to see that both lines broke right where the down position lock lines attach to the rudders. I find that I’m able to insert the shortened tails of the lines into their respective attachment holes, tie new stopper knots, and still have enough line for the rudders to be raised and locked down properly. No need to rig new lines. I consider that these rudder lines are just about the only lines remaining which are original to the boat. I’ve replaced just about every other line at least once in the course of ownership. I figure that the age of these lines was actually a big plus. Their weakness allowed them to perform much DSCF2438like a propeller shear pin, breaking when they hit bottom. If they’d been new and stronger, I might have broken the rudders or rudder brackets instead.

After lunch I give the wheel to Sandy so I can take a nap. While I’m resting, she sights the first alligator we’ve seen since leaving Florida. The water here is brackish, but alligators do enter salty water from time to time. They don’t stay long, but apparently it helps them to rid their scales of parasites. Interestingly, we were at just about this location in October, 2003 when we spotted our first ever alligator. IDSCF2440 wonder if the two are related.

We’re planning on anchoring out today, 5 or 10 miles south of Georgetown. We could make Georgetown but that would involve a 75 mile day, and we wouldn’t get in until 5:30 or later. Most of the boats that have passed us today are heading for Georgetown, so the marina is likely to be nearly full. My plan is to anchor out a little short of Georgetown and then head there in the morning. The cruising guide says they have a nice day use only free dock, so we can take a midday break, go for a walk in the historic district, and then go a few miles further north in search of another anchorage. It’s a bit breezy out, so I reject staying at the anchorage nearest to Georgetown, on the edge of Winyah Bay. Instead, we point toward the Minim Creek anchorage, however, it’s in a wide open marshy location, with no wind protection. Just short of Minim Creek I spot an inviting side channel called Duck Creek. It’s got ample width and depth, and a nice tree line which would afford a bit of a wind break. It’s not marked on the charts but looks perfect. We turn in and I drop the anchor. We have the place all to ourselves. Lovely bird songs waft from the trees. Sitting on the calm waters we hear dolphins as they break the surface and spout. The only detraction are the ever present bugs, mostly no see ums, and reinforced for the first time by deer flies which, if given the chance, can inflict an irritating bite.

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Carolina Gold – 4-4-16

First of All -

  • First fog encountered since leaving the interior rivers last fall
  • First cypress trees seen since leaving the interior rivers
  • First pontoon swing bridge seen on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • Winyah Bay
  • Sampit River
  • Georgetown
  • Great Pee Dee River
  • Waccamah River
  • Ruinsville
  • Cow House Creek

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 35; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,882
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: 10.8 gallons ($30 – 8 mpg)
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.6
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 66

DSCF2444I get another early start today, with anchor up by 6:45. We want to get up to Georgetown with enough time to walk into town, and still have day enough remaining for a decent run up the ICW. It’s quite chilly this morning, and the cockpit dripping with dew. A low lying fog forms along the shore and drifts out over the waterway, making for a pretty sunrise. We pass a new type of bridge, a floating pontoon swing bridge which is, fortunately, open and not obstructing our passage. After a few miles we enter Wynah Bay, a broad body of water,DSCF2449 at the head of which lies historic Georgetown. The waters of Wynah Bay are glassy smooth, not a breath of wind. I hear a sailboat talking on VHF, saying “Yesterday no water, today no air”, referring to the shallow water behind us and the dead calm we’re now in. Just after 9am we arrive at Georgetown. I stop at a fuel dock to fill my gas tank, and then we move a short distance further and tie up at the free day use town dock. It works perfectly for us, giving us a great chance to look around without having to mess around with anchor or dinghy.

Our first stop is at the Rice Museum, which turns out to be well worth the visit. We’ve heard about rice cultivation being such a huge source of wealth during Colonial and pre Civil War times in South Carolina. They talked a lot about it down in Charleston and Beaufort. We couldn’t understand how it worked, since rise fields require inundation with fresh water and, thus far, most of the coastal waters we’ve been cruising through have been salty to brackish. I figured they must have built elaborate irrigation ditches, however, ditches wouldn’t work on low lying coastal islands. Here at the Rice Museum the mystery is explained. Rice production in South Carolina was centered in and around Georgetown. The surrounding lands once produced enormous quantities of rice, which was exported around the world. The Georgetown area had the good fortune of DSCF2457having a great quantity of fresh water, in the form of 6 major rivers, all flowing into Wynah Bay. This significant inflow of fresh water holds back the salt water at a point well downriver. Tidal action, though, still causes the fresh water in the local rivers to rise and fall several feet, twice a day. Back in Colonial times people figured out how to harness that tidal action through the construction of levees and flood gates. Once the fields were prepared they were able to let water in or out according to the needs of the rice crop. Initial preparation of the fields was an enormous task, since the pristine lands along the rivers were heavily forested cypress swamp land. It took up to 15DSCF2465 years to clear and prepare a field for rice cultivation. Both the preparation of fields as well as the actual process of rice farming required great amounts of labor. This labor, of course, was provided by slaves. Slaves from West Africa were in particularly high demand, since these people had perfected this technique of growing rice back in Africa. There were great riches to be made by cultivating rice. This crop, along with indigo and, to a lesser degree, sea island cotton, helped to make South Carolina the second richest colony, trailing only Massachusetts. Rice was known as Carolina Gold. Today, however, rice is no longer produced here. Following the Civil War, with the abolishment of slavery, cheap labor was no longer available. Over a period of years it became obvious that rice could no longer be profitably grown without that source of labor. The soil here was too soft to permit use of mechanized equipment. A series of hurricanes in the late 1800’s proved to be the last straw. Considering the extent to which slave labor was key to South Carolina’s wealth, it’s not surprising that this state was the first to secede, and the first to fire its guns in anger, at the start of the Civil War. Today the rice fields stand vacant, with cypress trees beginning to reclaim what once was theirs. The sounds of gunfire still echo in some areas, with the old flood gates being used for a new purpose, creating temporary marsh lands to attract ducks and geese, and those who hunt them.

DSCF2458In addition to vividly telling the story of rice, this museum houses a remarkable artifact. It’s a boat, or rather the remains of a boat, which was recovered from the bottom of a nearby river. This craft proved to be the earliest example of Colonial boat making yet to be discovered. It’s dated to 1715, and in addition to recovering this vessel in amazingly good condition, a great many articles associated with it were also found.

After visiting the museum we walk outside and stroll the downtown. It’s a delightful day, perfect temperature, bright sunshine and just the right amount of breeze. We have lunch at a downtown deli, at a pleasant outdoor table with a nice view of the harbor. We then walk back to the boat and head down the Sampit River and turn north. We start seeing more and more cypress trees along the shoreline, and I realize that these trees give clear if mute testamony to the fresh nature of the river’s water. Fallow fields lie behind the cypress at first, but before long we’re passing through an extensive cypress swamp forest. Spring is fresh on the tips of trees and shrubs, with the bright pale green of new buds, just opened. A south wind comes up, not strong but just enough to fill our jib. This is welcome since we’ve been going against the current all afternoon. The ebb tide gradually slackens, just about the time we turn into an attractive side channel called Cow House Creek. It will be our home for the night.

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Never Attempt to Take the Throttle Control Case Apart! – 4/5/16

First of All -

  • First Canada goose seen since leaving the Mississippi
  • First golf course seen from the waterway
  • First McDonalds Restaurant seen from the waterway
  • First passenger cable car passing over the waterway
  • First time mooring at a shopping mall

Namely Speaking-

  • Mulberry Landing
  • Bucksport
  • Socastee Bridge
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Barefoot Landing

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 31; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,913
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.64
  • Wind Speed: 12-15; Wind Direction: NNE
  • Daily High Temperature: 60
  • Water Temperature: 66

$RYPRS71Last night before turning in, as is my custom, I reviewed Skipper Bob and my charts for the morrow’s cruise. I noticed that if one leaves Georgetown at low tide it’s possible to ride a following current all the way to Barefoot Landing. I checked tides and concluded that, if I got an early start, say 6am, I could catch that boosting current. Thus, by 5:30 I’m up, and by 6am, with running lights switched on, I’m off anchor and easing my way out into the main channel. I’m a bit troubled by how the engine is starting first thing in the morning, ever since we had that work done on the ignition system in Charleston. It has always fired right up, and now it takes 3 or 4 tries before the engine catches and runs. Also, I have noticed that the idle lever isn’t functioning properly. It won’t raise fully, and it doesn’t rev the engine up in neutral as it should. However, the engine is running, as are we. It’s pitch dark out still, and a fingernail clipping of a moon has just risen in the east. The water is smooth and uniformly deep between the cypress lined banks. We start encountering cruising boats, at dock, at$R8OHIO6 anchor, and just pulling away from the dock by the time we pass Bucksport. Everyone is headed north toward what is developing to be some very chilly spring weather. It’s not supposed to get above 60 today, and with a 15 mph north wind on our nose, I’m wearing just about every layer I have on board. Today’s goal is very modest. We’ll stop at Barefoot Landing well before noon and take a break there. This place used to be a free dock. They now charge $1.50 a foot, which isn’t too bad. It’s adjacent to the Barefoot Landing shopping mall, a highly touristy collection of shops and eateries, laid out around a small lake. We were here in 2003 and have decided to stop again for old times sake. We tie up, then head over to check out the shops, grab lunch, and take a walk around the lake. We get back to the boat with most of the afternoon still available. I decide to see what I can do about that idle arm. I call my dealer and discuss the problem, and he gives me some pointers on how to check the idle arm. I watched the thing get disassembled by Ryan in Charleston, and I figure I should be able to take it apart. That’s the easy part. I see how the idle arm is supposed to line up inside the case, however, trying to get everything back into position turns out to be a nightmare. The assembly is connected to a pair of stiff throttle cables which have minds of their own. Several tangled wads of wires need to somehow fit back inside, the key and kill switch housings must line up in their respective cutouts, and oh yes, did I mention the grease? All the moving parts inside the case are $R7IJLCJwell lubricated with gobs of grease and, when I try putting the thing back together, the grease seems to go everywhere. Having the whole deal become slippery doesn’t help things one bit. After a couple of hours messing with this thing, I finally manage to line up all the various parts so that the case halves close. I put the screws back in, reinstall the throttle, and then go to test it out. I turn the key and, wouldn’t you know it, the engine won’t turn over. So, in trying to fix a somewhat minor, and certainly not debilitating problem, I’ve managed to create a potentially seriously debilitating problem. I really want nothing more to do with that throttle control and so start calling around, with absolutely no luck. I either get no answer, or voice mail with no call back, or a response that they don’t work on Suzukis. The local Suzuki dealer wants me to bring it in to him, and even if I could he can’t look at it for 2 weeks. When things look their worst my dealer calls back, and we discuss the problem. He suggests that I very likely didn’t get the neutral disconnect switch, whatever the heck that is, properly aligned with the throttle handle. He takes a throttle assembly apart back in Seattle and emails me photos showing how everything should look when properly assembled. He also gives me tips on how to reassemble the case more easily. At this point in the day there’s no way I’m going to touch it this evening, however, I do plan on attacking it in the morning, once it warms up a bit outside. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

$RAUPRDB$RSIPMY6

I’m now a Certifiable Throttle Assembly Expert – 4/6/16

First of All -

  • First time using the “winter” side of the sleeping bag on top

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 200 feet
  • Hours Underway: 3 minutes
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 5-10; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 63
  • Water Temperature:6

DSCF2512I wake up refreshed and ready to face the throttle control problem once again. This time I’m armed with a photo of a correctly assembled throttle, courtesy of Todd, my ever helpful boat dealer. I carefully remove and disassemble the case, this time following Todd’s recommendation and disconnecting the throttle cables, which makes handling the case much easier. I start removing parts, looking for a possible cause for my troubles. I spot a small triangular piece of plastic lying in the bottom of the case, and next to it a short plastic tab. The triangle has uneven edges, and obviously has broken off from something. It turns out that when I was trying to put things back together yesterday, I managed to press something against the little tab, which just happens to be the neutral disconnect switch trigger. It in turn broke off a piece of the switch case and then fell free. I’m confident that I now understand why the engine wouldn’t start last evening. I make an attempt, with super glue and epoxy glue, to reattach the piece of case and the switch trigger. I’m prevented from reassembling the throttle because I also find another loose part lying in the bottom of the throttle case. It’s a small brass disc, kind of like a miniature hockey puck, and for the life of me, I simply can’t figure out where it’s supposed to go. It takes another call to Todd to finally solve theDSCF2516 riddle. It’s a key which holds one of the shift cams in alignment, and it’s place is almost completely hidden. I manage to slip it into place, and then I hopefully put all the pieces together. It reassembles much easier than yesterday (I call that progress). I bolt it back to the side of the pedestal and give the key a turn. The engine starts, although it still takes a couple of tries before it runs steadily. At least I’ve got a start, and we can move once again. I try the neutral rev lever, and am disappointed to find that it still doesn’t work either. Nonetheless, we make preparations to shove off. It’s only 1:30pm and we still have time to go 15 or 20 miles. I untie the lines, give the boat a shove off the dock as I step aboard, and then shift into gear. Wow, it totally doesn’t feel right. It shifts into forward all right, but we can’t go much faster than idle speed, and the shifter feels unnaturally stiff. When I pull back to neutral it goes out of gear but revs up. Reverse works, but behaves like forward does: stiff to shift and no rpm’s. We can’t go anywhere like this, so I get ready to circle around and return to the dock. Wouldn’t you know it, a large power cruiser is slowly motoring up the waterway on our port side, blocking my turn. It seems to take him forever to get out of my way. Finally I complete the turn and pull up to the dock. We’re right back where we started from, and it’s not clear that we’re not going anywhere today. Obviously, I’ve made some mistake in putting the mechanism back together. I have enough time and patience for one more try, but even iDSCF2513f successful it will be too late to head out. Sandy pulls up the photo Todd sent me on our laptop, so I can get a better look. Once I reopen the case, I see a problem with linkage alignment right away. I also see where Todd’s photo specifies that a certain circular disc with a round tab must engage a linkage arm just so. No matter how I try, I can’t get the hole in the arm to line up with the tab. I finally realize that the only way it will go together as Todd shows is if I undo the disc and turn it 180 degrees. Apparently Ryan put it together backwards, and this understandable error must be what has been preventing the neutral rev lever from working. I turn the disc around and things line up fine. This time, as I put it all back together for my third time, I have really high hopes that everything will finally work properly. I take a breath and hold it as I turn the key. The engine starts right up, and seems to start strongly, as it used to. I raise the neutral rev lever and the engine revs up as it should. While still tethered to the dock I smoothly shift into forward and the engine shows every sign of wanting to reliably take us to new places. Same with reverse. After much anxiety, frustration, struggle and sweat, I have finally prevailed with the throttle. I’m extremely grateful for the patient and timely help which Todd has provided. Without his aid I wouldn’t have stood a chance. I’m now even armed with knowledge on what to do if my jury rig repair of the switch fails. I can simply cut the switch out and butt splice the two wires together, since there is still a redundant safety feature in the engine itself. With that, we grab our jackets and walk over to California Pizza for a celebratory dinner.

Three Good Decisions – 4/7/16

First of All -

  • First time running for shelter due to severe weather
  • First migrating Canada geese seen
  • First day cruising in North Carolina

Namely Speaking-

  • Calabash River
  • Saucepan Creek
  • Shallotte Inlet
  • Lockwoods Folly Inlet
  • Southport

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 46; Sail: Motor sailed 4 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 3,959
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.68
  • Wind Speed: 12-15; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 70
  • Water Temperature: 66

DSCF2518For the first time since leaving Charleston I turn the ignition key on with confidence. The engine starts strongly and we’re finally underway again. It’s 6:30am and the day is just dawning, but heavy clouds suggest that we’ll not see the sun anytime soon. As soon as I clear the dock I radio Barefoot Landing swing bridge to request an opening. The bridge tender opens on request, informing us as we pass through that heavy rain and lightning is on its way. Shortly afterward, a blaring alarm sounds on the VHF radio, which we’ve learned means a weather alert is being broadcast. Sandy switches the radio over to the weather frequency, which terminates the alarm and tunes us in to the weather information. A severe thunderstorm warning is being issued for northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina, right where we are located. NOAA predicts winds up to 60 mph, possibly heavy hail, and strong electrical activity and advises listeners to take shelter. I check the radar image on my smart phone and the monster clearly shows up, a diagonal line of squalls just west of us, andDSCF2519 heading our way. We’re cruising away from the storm line, however our speed is 6mph and the storm is moving at 45 mph. No way we can outrun it. I figure we have about 40 minutes to find either an anchorage or a dock. I look back just in time to see a hot lightning strike, just a couple miles behind us. The downpour hits before we can find anyplace to stop. Sandy gets my foul weather gear out and I put it on, along with the lifejacket. Through the pouring rain I see what looks like a small marina. Garmin identifies it as Dock Hollidays Marina and I try calling them on the radio, with no response. As we draw near, I see a nice open space on their floating face dock, and I head for that. I make a nice approach, and the wind direction presses us right against the dock. I hop out, adjust fenders and secure lines. Then we retreat to the shelter of the cabin, where Sandy has the stove heater going. Within 20 minutes the storm passes by, followed by clearing sky. We shove off and resume our day’s cruise. Putting in for shelter is my first good decision of the day.

Boat traffic heading north is heavy today, and we’re passed by numerous power and sail boats. They consistently go by with slow passes. I hear lots of radio traffic about shoaling in the vicinity of Lockwoods Folly Inlet. One boat with 4 foot draft bumped bottom there. As I near the spot I uncleat my rudders so they’re free to kick up. A large trawler is following us as we enter the tricky place, holding back on his pass until we reach easier water. The current is running strong on ebb tide, which DSCF2522means that our speed drops to 3 or 4 mph after we pass the inlet. A bit ago I told myself that, at the next opportunity I need to check fuel level in my working tank, since it’s probably getting near to empty. Wrong. It is empty, as the stumbling engine announces, at the worst possible time, with me fighting the current, shoals on either side, and a large trawler close to our stern. I pull the throttle back to neutral and switch the fuel line over to the starboard side tank as quickly as possible. The current swings us sideways, but I complete the switch and resume control before getting into serious trouble. I radio the following boat to explain the reason for my crazy maneuver.

We’re hoping to sail up the Cape Fear River, an open water passage of about 8 miles, taking advantage of the favorable wind direction. ADSCF2524 nice anchorage on the far side of the cut beckons as our reward, if we can get that far. As we near Southport, at the edge of the Cape Fear River I can look out at the river, and it looks decidedly nasty. I check the Garmin current report for this location, hoping to find that the river is about to switch to flood. On the contrary, it’s near peak ebb, runnning about 4 mph on the ebb, and that flow is conflicting with a 15 to 20 knot wind out of the south. The river is kicking up impressive whitecaps. Time for my second good decision of the day. We make a quick “U” turn and head for the Southport Marina. They have a nice inside slip waiting for us. Instead of crashing and thrashing through 3 to 4 foot seas, in strong winds, with spray blasting over the bow and making no more than 3 to 4 mph at 3200 rpm, we’ll tie up in the marina, go for a nice walk, maybe go out for dinner, and finish the day off with hot showers. That definitely qualifies as a very good decision. It looks even better when I check the current forecast for tomorrow morning, and see that we have a nice flood tide starting at 6:30 am, which is just perfect.

We go for a walk along the waterfront, past a row of seafood restaurants which line the old yacht basin. We walk into the old downtown and over to a nice park, with many large oaks and an incredible display of azaleas, which are in peak bloom. On our way back we pass through an attractive neighborhood. Nearly all the houses have plaques which list their ages. Most were built in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. We did see one, though, which said “circa 2015″. It’s getting close to dinner time and we’re starting to tire, so now it’s time for my third good decision of the day, namely stopping for dinner at Fishy Fishy, a nice seafood place at the old yacht basin. The shrimp, oysters and scallops are just perfect.

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A Bridge Too Far – 4/8/16

First of All -

  • First commercial fishing boat seen actively working drag nets
  • First time hard aground on a falling tide

Namely Speaking-

  • Cape Fear
  • Snows Cut
  • Masonboro Inlet
  • Figure Eight Island
  • Little Topsail Inlet

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 47; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 4,206
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.64
  • Wind Speed: 10-12; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 68
  • Water Temperature: 62

DSCF2548The day begins ominously, with the engine requiring three turns of the key before it catches. And while idling it cuts out. I get it going again, determined to make miles. I’m hoping I can nurse it along until we reach Norfolk, where a mechanic can try and chase down all these gremlins. Despite its glitches of late, the engine has run well once we get going. We leave the marina at 6:30 and head up the Cape Fear River. The churning seas of yesterday have calmed overnight, and this morning the waters are placid, and with a good 2 knot current pushing us up river. We make good time for the 5 or 6 miles of river on our route. We pass a fishing boat with outriggers, nets and drags out. He must be dragging for oysters, bottom fish or crab. Not too sure about what they catch with this gear, but the gulls and pelicans sure like the process. When we enter Snows Cut our speed drops significantly, due to the adverse current. It’s virtually impossible to time aDSCF2554 passage on both Cape Fear River and Snows Cut to have favorable current the whole way, since the two passages flow in opposed directions. Once we clear Snows Cut and start up Myrtle Grove Sound our speed picks up. That is, until I have to slow and turn into a large wake thrown up by an enormous sport fisher. As I pull back on the throttle to ride over the wake, the engine dies. This is a new kind of event, and it doesn’t bode well. I restart right away and we continue on our way. As Wrightsville Bridge draws near I check my watch and calculate the distance to the bridge. It only opens on the hour, so I don’t want to miss the opening by a few minutes. I adjust speed so we’ll arrive on time. We pull in behind several other boats which are waiting for the opening. While slowly maneuvering around, the engine dies again. If it did that while approaching the bridge, things could get messy in a hurry. However, it restarts and keeps running, and in turn we pass through. The next bridge, Figure Eight Island Swing Bridge, is just 6 miles further. It opens every half hour, and so I set our speed so as to reach the bridge in time for the noon opening. This works out great, and now we have just one more bridge, the Surf City Bridge, to pass before having unimpeded water to our intended anchorage, just short of the Camp Le Jeune Marine Corps Base. This bridge is 18 miles ahead, and once again I set our speed so we will arrive in time. This is another bridge which only opens on the hour. We’re doing just fine until, just 6 miles short of the bridge, the engine cuts out while at cruising speed. I get this sinking feeling that we won’t be going much farther under motor power. I do have the jib out for motor sailing, however, I can’t count on it getting us any substantial distance. With no better option coming to mind, I restart, set the auto pilot, and DSCF2585begin scanning Active Captain on the cell phone for a marina or boat yard close to our location. I don’t get much chance to scroll down the list of possibilities before the engine dies again. I finally give up on it and ghost along on the jib while looking for a place to get off the waterway. I end up talking with a nearby boatyard. They tell me they will have wall space for us to tie up to in a couple of hours, as soon as a boat leaves. I decide to anchor along the channel until a space opens up. While trying to maneuver over to the side of the channel with just the sail to work with, I manage to slide over a shallow bar. The wind is pushing us toward the western shore, and without enough depth for centerboard or rudders, I’m helpless to maneuver the boat with the sail. Naturally, the tide is falling, and by the time I lower and start the kicker motor to try and move us into deeper water, we’re grounded too hard for that little motor to push us free. There’s nothing to be done except wait for the rising tide. I load the anchor into the dinghy and row as far out toward the main channel as my rode will permit. I set the anchor and then, back on the boat, I put the rode under tension. We have several hours to wait, until the tide floats us free. Meanwhile, I call the marina up to make sure they have space for us. They do, although we won’t be able to move over there until morning, since the marina staff will go home before the tide releases its grip on us. I then place yet another call to Todd, with the grim story of our latest troubles. He takes it all in with good humor and calls me back after he’s had a chance to study some wiring diagrams. He feels the problem is electrical in nature, and probably related to my earlier troubles. We discuss a few things I can check, and we strategize on how best to get the darned thing running again, and in reliable fashion. I also contact a local outboard mechanic who can look at the engine, but not until Monday. It looks like we’ll be spending the weekend at Harbour Village Marina. How much longer we’ll be stranded here, only time will tell.

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