Sunday, February 10, 2013

Finally cruising

We are at anchor in the New River, just west of Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.  We enjoyed our very first sunset at anchor with a glass of wine after a long day of training.  Aboard Vector with us is Captain Chris Caldwell of Captain Chris Yacht Services, our long-time friend and now our training captain.  Along with the glass of wine went the official "naming ceremony" for the boat.

In order to properly name a boat which previously had a different name, there is also an official "de-naming" ceremony, to ensure that Neptune is appeased.  That must be carried out after all vestiges of the former name have been removed from the vessel, but before the new name has been affixed.  And so it was that we held the ceremony while Wes-the-sign-guy was in between removal of the old name and application of the new one.  As it happens, Matt from Deltaville Boatyard, whom we had met at Trawler Fest, was also aboard for an inspection on his way home to Deltaville, Virginia, and he snapped some photos of the ceremony, which he was kind enough to share with us.  Yes, that is a bottle of decent champagne, and, no, we did not get to drink any.  Neptune gets all of it.  On a humorous note, when I popped the cork it sailed two docks over and landed on another boat in the marina.

That all happened on Wednesday, the same day we moved aboard.  We waited to load the cats until Wes and Matt were done on the boat.  They were wide-eyed for the first night, but have settled in quite nicely; today they were completely blase about the engine starting and motoring away from the dock.  Once the cats were aboard, we took turns going back to the bus for any additional items or tasks, so that the cats always had one of us with them for the first couple of days.  Each of us had our moment of deep sadness being back in the now mostly empty bus, our home for the last eight and a half years.  For Louise, Odyssey represented the single longest stay in any single home, and for me it is exceeded only by the house in which I grew up.  It is hard, indeed, to leave her behind.

Getting all four of us aboard for that first night was something of an achievement, but we still had a mountain of work ahead of us to get ready for this cruise.  I needed to get enough tools onto the boat to handle any problems that might arise, and we had to have the galley fully equipped and provisioned to provide three squares a day for the three of us.  I had to find and organize our charts, study the route and anchorages, and figure out how to work the chartplotters.

Chris arrived just after lunch Friday, while we were still getting it all squared away.  Earlier in the day I had raced over to River Supply, next door to Thunderbolt Marine, to get three current combination flares (the extensive flare kit, including Very pistol, we found aboard was fully expired) and a 1/2" chain hook to fashion an anchor snubber, but they did not have this latter item.  So after a tour of the boat and inspection of all the systems and safety equipment, we decided to try Home Depot after going out for a final restaurant meal ashore at Tubby's, also in Thunderbolt, in Chris' rental car.

The largest chain hook we could find at Home Depot was 3/8", so we settled for a conventional hook that we though night work.  It did slip off the anchor chain once, as the tide went slack, but we reattached it with a zip-tie to keep it from slipping, and the bridle has held nicely all afternoon.

This morning we were up early to take advantage of the spring tide, which was +8' or so at high tide.  We left on the ebb, though, as we spent nearly an hour on the dock learning how to hand-line the boat out of a tight situation.  We had a favorable wind, though, and left our very dicey slip with no trouble at all.  Once out of the marina we proceeded to Thunderbolt, where we bought the boat and where we had just been the previous evening for dinner.  It's a much longer trip by boat, but we needed the stop because we had to avail ourselves of the waste pump-out.  The pump-out and fuel dock was not at all busy, especially for a pleasant Saturday, and after pumping out we asked the dockmaster if we could do some touch-and-gos at the dock. So Louise and I each got to do three landings and take-offs from the dock, with the other handling the lines.  It felt great to successfully dock the boat, but I know we once again had very favorable winds, and we have many more challenging dockings ahead of us.

After an hour or so at the Thunderbolt docks, we proceeded north up the Intracoastal Waterway.  We cleared the bascule bridge north of US-80 without needed an opening, although we did lower the HF antennas and held our breath.  We managed to cross the Savannah River in very light traffic, leaving Georgia behind.  By the time we crossed the river the tide was just a couple of hours from low, and the low today was -0.8'.  Yes, that's below Mean Low Water.  Unfortunately, the next stretch is a narrow cut between two rivers, and there is a bar at each end.  And I don't mean the kind that serves margaritas.  With the constraint of our 6' draft, we made a sécurité call on the radio before entering the cut, so any southbound barge traffic preparing to enter the cut at the other end would know we were in there.

We crossed the south bar without incident, even though we briefly saw 5'6" flash on the depth sounder.  I have to say it was a tense moment and Captain Chris was the only one of the three of us who looked calm.  Once in the cut the water deepened to well over the 12' nominal navigation channel.  Now, when I called Chris to ask for his help and tell him the insurance company would not let us drive the boat until he "signed us off," he said "sure, just so long as signing you off does not mean I am saying you won't run the boat aground in Georgia -- because you will."

I'm sure he was right, but, in fact, we were not in Georgia but rather already in South Carolina when we did run aground, on the north bar of the cut, where it meets the Wright River.  Fortunately the depth sounder did its job and we were at dead slow when it happened, but nerve-wracking nonetheless.  Once again, Chris was the calm instructor, and we backed off the bar with little drama.  It turned out the navigable water was right against the east shore, and we made it across on our second attempt.  Chris assures us that this is normal for the area, and he called it "feeling your way through."  He's done this stretch of water perhaps a hundred times, but the channels are constantly moving.  He was also very reassuring about the robustness of our thick-keeled steel boat.

Between the hand-lining, the pumpout, the docking practice, and the grounding, we were nearly at dead low tide when we arrived here at the anchorage, and we decided to make it a short day, stopping before 2pm.  That gave us the afternoon to drop the tender in the water for the very first time, and get it running.  Once we had the dinghy launched we used it to go re-secure the make-shift anchor snubber and then run about and take pictures of Vector at anchor.

After dinner we spent an hour or so trying to coax the chartplotters into giving us the displays we want under way, and now we are bushed.   Louise, who has some of the photos, is already in bed, and so the post will linger until the morning when she can add a couple to it before publishing.  I'll be turning in myself in a few minutes, after one last check of the anchor swing on the plotter log.


  1. Looking good. :))

    Bill Kelleher

  2. WOW.....nice boat!

    Sounds like you had a great 1st cruise....I would have been scared to death... :c)

    What do you say to a sailor ???? HAPPY SAILING!

  3. Congratulations guys! May you have fair winds and favorable tides.

  4. I bet George is already just happy someone is rocking his bed so he can sleep.

  5. I have to say I have "Trawler Envy". I would love to have a trawler, but unfortunately my wife is not keen on living on the water. I KNOW you are going to love the water life, though! Congrats on the new lifestyle.

  6. Although happy for you guys at the beginning of your water dream, I find myself somewhat sad that we motorhomers will no longer have the benefit of your awesomely detailed bus writeups. The image of Odyssey left behind is a sad one for those of us who follow your blog. However, I know everyone wishes you all the best in your newest water borne adventures and looks forward to hearing about your new life. Beautiful boat!

    PS - My first comment post. Sorry accidentally deleted the first try.

  7. Onward to yet another adventure... we can't wait to enjoy them with you.. Thanks for continuing the blog.... Rod

  8. Fair winds and following seas.

    There's no reason why docking ever needs to be an adventure with a bow thruster. We have a firm rule on Gray Hawk - no leaping. Its the helmsman's job to put the boat against the slip and the line handler doesn't leave the boat until he/she is damn good and ready - IOW until the fenders are squished up against the dock. If your training Captain hasn't taught you how to use a spring line for docking yet - don't bother asking him. Its rare to find someone who actually knows how to use a spring line for docking but once you try it you'll never do anything else. Our training Captain poo-pooed a spring line when we took our first training. So we did things her way until she was off the boat and then started using a spring line. When we went back a year later for a refresher we taught her how to use a spring line the right way. I repeat - docking will soon be boring.

    Now fog - that's another matter - that can be an adventure. And you haven't lived until you get woken up by your anchor alarm at 2:00 AM in a strange anchorage.

    1. We did practice that method, although our training captain preferred not to call it a spring line. That said, we need a beefy dock with beefy cleats to use the technique. At some point I will try to post a photo of the dock we are on -- we are pulling the dock boards to which the cleats are attached right out of the dock. Last night we had 40-kt winds here, and I had to go out and wrap a bridle around one of the concrete pilings to feel secure, and then adjust it every hour or so with the 8' tidal swing.

      Looking forward to having you aboard if you make it out this way. Or else, someday, we will make it to the PNW and see you on the water.

    2. I was forgetting about the cleat thing. We use bullrails up here in the Pacific NorthWet. If you pull one of them loose the whole dock is coming with you. You can put the spring line around a piling - there's no law against that. Once you have that spring line onto something solid the boat will idle against the dock until it runs out of fuel.

  9. Next up Mile Rock and the Farallon islands. Can't fool me, I know where your headed. LOL. Congrats on the new boat. I know you will love the adventure, glad you can both share it.
    Did you find a home for the bus? Just wondering, not interested.

    She sure looks pretty sitting at the anchorage.

    1. Mike, I think it will be a while before we get to California. Since we bought an east coast boat, we will likely do most of the east coast, the Caribbean, and even the Med before we make it to the west coast, very likely by way of South America and Cape Horn. So that's a minimum of three years away, and probably longer.

      The bus is for sale, but we have done nothing to market it yet, so no takers.

  10. Wow. All these years of following your bus adventures. Can't thank you enough for the many hours of pleasure I've had, through your high moments and those repair-woes lows. Learned a lot, too, and have used many of your tips in our own RV-ing. We'll never have a boat, but will continue to monitor your new travels nonetheless. Stay safe.

  11. How exciting! I have been reading you for over a year now as an RVer.. now I will enjoy your seafaring blog as well!

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: This Country Is Our Big Backyard

  12. Sean & Louise,

    Congrats on the boat! How exciting! If you all make it up here to wilmington NC, let us know. We'd love to have you for dinner! Time to change the blog picture!

    -Sean (and Angie and the rest of the turtles)

    1. Wimington is a sure bet, but we don't know yet exactly when. We are still trying to decide if we are going to head north or south after Hilton Head. Would love to connect and see the progress on your bus.

      We do need a new masthead, but it's rather low on the priority list at the moment.


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