Monday, December 2, 2013

ICW stopover

We are tied up at the Deep Point Marina in Southport, North Carolina (map).  We had a nervous but trouble-free run here yesterday afternoon from Wrightsville Beach, along some 20 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).  We left Wrightsville at low tide, and thus the pucker factor was quite high as we transited across some notorious ICW trouble spots opposite the various inlets on the route.  At one point the depth sounder briefly registered 6', but we never touched bottom.

It was smooth sailing after we exited Snows Cut into the Cape Fear River, where we had some current behind us even on a rising tide.  We arrived here at Deep Point around 3:30 or so, and we tied up port-side-to to unload a scooter.  We had the scooter deployed well before sunset.

This last item was necessary because Deep Point is well outside of town, close to absolutely nothing except for the Bald Island Ferry, which shares the same basin.  The enormous ferry sends a pretty good wake through the whole marina, even though it is maneuvering at dead slow in the basin, and it sounds its horn every time it leaves the dock, which goes until 10pm or so.

For both these reasons, this is the least expensive marina in town, even though it is also the newest.  With our MTOA discount, dockage here is $1.14 per foot, plus $7.50 for power, and we asked for two nights when we arrived.  That would let us move another four miles to Bald Head tomorrow, to save 40 minutes or so in the good weather window on the Atlantic on Wednesday.

When I went in to pay, though, I learned they were having a "buy two nights, get the third night free" special, and so we decided to stay tomorrow night as well, since it adds $0 to the bill, and even anchoring out is costing us around $25-$30 per day in generator run time.

To make up for this, we'll need to leave even earlier than planned Wednesday, shoving off well before dawn.  We'll back out of the slip around "nautical twilight," negotiating the marina entrance in the dark and putting us into the Cape Fear River, where navigation is easy and the channel is deep.  It will be past "civil twilight" by the time we are at the river entrance, affording us the ability to see well enough for the purpose.

We went to dinner last night at Atlantic Steak & Seafood, on the outskirts of town, as all the decent downtown joints are closed Sunday and Monday.  Tonight we have our mouths all set for Mexican cuisine, and tomorrow we'll head down to the waterfront before loading the scooter back on deck.

Today I threw the saddlebags on the bike and headed to Walmart on a provisioning run.  I managed somehow to get a full cart of groceries loaded up, including the large jug of cat litter, a gallon of outboard oil, nine full-size boxes of Kleenex, two rolls of paper towels, 5.75 liters of wine, two bags full of fresh produce and meat, and myriad bags and cans of nuts, coffee, croutons, pharmacy products, and other miscellaneous items.  And don't forget the milk.

Louise stayed on board Vector to pound out 6 loads of laundry. Since each washer load dries more efficiently as two dryer loads, there's a lot of sorting and moving of damp items. It was also a good chance to estimate how much water the washer uses, since we filled the tank here at the marina. Six loads used approximately half our capacity, and we'll re-fill the tank before we leave.

We still have a few things left on the list that Walmart does not carry or was out of stock, so we'll stop by a grocery store on our way back from dinner tonight.  Tomorrow I might end up at the auto parts store and/or the hardware store to fill out my project supply list.  Have I mentioned how much we love having our motor scooters with us on the boat?

I am looking forward to leaving the ICW behind on Wednesday.  By Wednesday evening we should be anchored in Winyah Bay, and if the forecast holds for Thursday we might try to make Charleston, or else we will be in Winyah Bay until Saturday.  I'm not sure if we will get any cell signal in Winyah Bay, so this may be the last you hear from us until Charleston harbor.


  1. $25-$30/day generator cost for anchoring out sounds high to me. How much do you run your generator, in a typical 24-hour period, while anchoring out? Assuming I did my math correctly, at 1/2 gal/hour and $4/gallon that's about 12 hours/day generator time. Are cold outside temps the primary factor behind the need to run the generator 12 +/- hours a day?

    John Ingalls
    Fort Smith, Arkansas

  2. John, we ran the generator an average of six hours a day in Wrightsville Beach. That's high for us; in temperate climes with good batteries, we should be able to get that down to less than two hours per day. Two things are working against that right now -- battery problems and very cold temperatures.

    I've already written about the batteries several times. Out of six batteries available to run house loads, only one of them is any good. They will all be replaced in Florida (where a set of batteries will cost around $1,000 less than elsewhere). I also have a new inverter and alternator waiting in the wings to be installed when I get the time to re-wire the bank from 12 to 24 volts. As it stands right now, the current batteries barely last the night running the basic systems on the boat (fridge, anchor light, chartplotter, bilge pumps, etc.).

    The other factor has been the cold. Even with a reasonable amount of insulation, a steel and aluminum boat loses a lot of heat. It's been in the 30s overnight and the 40s or 50s in the daytime. All our heat is reverse-cycle, so until I get around to putting in a diesel/hydronic system, the genny needs to run to make heat. We'll run the heaters for maybe an hour, then shut down until we're cold again, maybe two hours.

    Your math is also off. Our 16kW generator uses about a gallon an hour at half load Beyond that, the cost of an hour of run time goes far beyond just the cost of diesel. I have a spreadsheet (carried forward from Odyssey) that figures hourly run cost based on current diesel price along with engine oil, air/fuel/oil filters, coolant, impellers, and all the other myriad maintenance items that are serviced on a schedule of anywhere from once every 200 to once every 1,000 hours. At the current average cost of marine diesel (well over $4 per gallon, BTW), it costs us around $5 per hour to run the genny.

    While $25-$30 per day sounds high, bear in mind that we've never seen a marina charge less than a buck a foot, and we've paid as much as $2.50 a foot. Seldom do these rates even include electricity, which is typically an extra $5-$15 per day. That means we can't dock our 52' boat for less than $52 per night, and we've paid as much as $150 per night for the privilege. At that price we could run the genny 24/7 and be ahead...

    BTW, none of this includes the cost of using the batteries. I did a long write-up (here) on that cost, which at the time ran to about $0.25 per kWh, or twice what grid power costs. Batteries have gone up since then, so the number is higher now. I did not figure that into my "$25 per day" guesstimate because these batteries are already toast, and were nearly so when we got the boat.

  3. You should have taken a picture of the scooter load leaving WalMart. I still can't picture how you got ALL that into your saddlebags.

    1. I'm not sure a picture of the end result would be revealing... loaded saddlebags look just like empty ones. But it might help to know that not all fits in the saddlebags, and we have a method that works for us. In this case, the breakdown went like this:

      - Cat litter, box wine, gallon of oil, and a few smaller items in a large cloth shopping bag that goes on the scooter floorboard, with the handles looped over the coathook on the fairing. This keeps the heavy stuff down low and on something that can support the weight. It means I ride with my feet on the fold-out passenger pegs instead of on the floorboard.

      - Paper goods, so three Kleenex three-packs (nine full-size boxes in total) and the two-pack of paper towels, stacked inside a large lawn-and-leaf type garbage sack and then strapped to the passenger seat with a bungee net.

      - Coffee, canned nuts, and other similar items in the trunk, with the pumpkin pie laid across the top. The hard-topped trunk is better for anything that you don't want crushed, like the pie.

      - Produce in one saddlebag main compartment, and bags of nuts, croutons, etc. in the other, above the bottle of wine lying on its side.

      - Pork ribs in one outer compartment, and miscellaneous small item in the other.

      If I expected even more to haul back, I would also have worn one of our larger backpacks. We also have a large duffle that can be strapped to the back seat if needed, but the plastic bag was fine for the lightweight paper goods.

      If we have a *really* long grocery list, then we take both scooters, and we can fit nearly twice as much (we only have one pair of saddlebags, though).


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