A belated happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We had a nice holiday yesterday, and I decided even to take the day off from the blog. I knew, one way or another, that I would have plenty of time to do so today.
We are still in Morehead City, at the Portside Marina (map). The ocean forecast for today continued to deteriorate, and we decided to postpone our departure until dawn tomorrow, when conditions are forecast to be much better. So I am taking the day to catch up on a few things.
We had a most excellent meal yesterday at Floyd's 1921 Restaurant, just a couple of blocks from here, which is one of the most popular and highly rated restaurants in town. The meal was served buffet style, and included all the traditional flavors, and then some. We each had a heaping plate of turkey with all the trimmings, and I also had some roast beef while Louise tried the ham. A shrimp and crab casserole was to die for, and absolutely everything on the spread was delicious. If anything, there were too many choices and we simply could not sample it all. I can see why their annual Thanksgiving meal sells out two months in advance.
Every evening at dinner (unless we are dining with others), we like to count our blessings, with each of us listing a few things for which we are thankful. Often those things relate to the day's events, but sometimes we count more substantial things like health, family, or distant friends. The thanksgiving meal is no exception, but the nature of the holiday causes us to reflect more deeply on the important things in life.
And so it is that we are thankful that (above and beyond health, love, and friendship) all of our worldly problems are what we are fond of calling "first world problems." I know I write a lot here about what broke, what went wrong, how much time, money, or effort we spend fixing things, and the like, and perhaps it may seem at times that I am whining about life. Today is a good day to say that nothing is further from the truth. Not only are all our problems of the first-world variety, many are of the "poor me, my yacht is broken" variety -- the sorts of problems that 99.99% of the world's population will never have, but would love to.
If you are reading this page, then you too are among the most well-off in the world; you can read (one in three can not), you have access to the Internet, and, if you have any money at all to your name you are one in twelve people on Earth.
I do not want to disappoint that portion of our readers who come here for the schadenfreude, though, and, of course, we've updated our travel plans, so read on.
Yesterday we "slept in," which these days means we got up after 7am. We knew we had only a couple of hours to travel, and it started out as a beautiful day. We did enjoy our coffee over our usual morning reading in a very leisurely way, with good Internet access and no pressure to move along. We did want to be docked and in quarters well before our 3:30 reservations, though, so we weighed anchor around 8:15 for an arrival here before noon.
Conditions on the ICW were so calm that more than once we remarked it was almost glassy. A handful of die-hards were out in their small fishing boats, but there were no cruising boats in sight of us the whole trip. We were pleased to pass the Statute Mile 200 marker, a fifth of the way to our interim destination on the Florida coast.
The calm persisted right up until we crossed the railroad bascule bridge coming into the port. Then we were hit in the face with 20 knots of wind out of the south -- Louise could barely stand on deck to prepare lines and fenders, and had to wait until I could get her a partial lee to finish the job.
The docks here run east-west, and we were assigned to a spot on the north side of a pier, nose-to-nose with another boat. We knew the spot, as it is exactly where we were tied up on our last visit. The marina was closed with no staff on hand, so we knew we were on our own for docking, which is usually our preference anyway.
Try as I might, I just could not get the boat next to that dock. With winds steady at 20 and gusting to 25 pushing us away from the dock, no sooner could I get the bow near the pier than we'd be pushed so quickly away that Louise could not possibly lasso a cleat. This is exactly the kind of docking where, if we have to do it, we'll ask for help from a dockhand. Not an option this time.
After three unsuccessful passes, we gave up and had to regroup. They had told us the fuel dock was an option if winds were high, but they were thinking about the forecast northerlies. With the south wind, it was perilously close to a concrete quay -- one slip with the throttle and we could be in serious trouble. We went back into deep water and I reluctantly called the dockmaster on his cell phone on his holiday to ask if we could dock instead on the channel-side face dock, across from our assigned spot. On our last visit, there was a superyacht tied up here for repairs; we did not know if it was now reserved for someone else.
He told us to take whatever we could find, and we re-rigged the fenders for a starboard side tie. I eased the boat up next to the dock, and the wind brought us alongside, a bit more forcefully than we normally like, even though I was using every ounce of thruster and propulsion to slow down the approach.
Neither one of us thought there would be any issue with this, even in this wind -- we've come into many docks like this before. But this floating dock is extremely low to the water. As soon as we touched, every single fender popped out and onto the dock. The side of the boat then came up against the dock's rub strip, which offered some protection. However, we have a steel half-round that protrudes an inch or so from the side of the boat starting about midships and extending all the way to the stern.
Ironically, this is a protective part of the boat, there to deflect logs, icebergs, shipping containers, and anything else that might pose a hazard under way. However, it's painted to a yacht finish, something you will be glad to part with when deflecting a shipping container on a dark night in the North Atlantic. As luck would have it, this deflector was just below the dock's vinyl rub strip, and, in fact, it was at exactly the height of all the rusty bolt heads just beneath that rub strip that hold the dock together.
With 20 knots of wind pinning us to the dock, and wind-driven waves bouncing us up and down, we worked feverishly to try to cram the fenders back into place. In the perhaps three minutes it took us to get some fenders in there, those bolts managed to rip huge gouges into the deflector, some all the way through the paint, the barrier coat, and the fairing compound and down to bare steel. It was particularly disheartening to see the damage, because we literally just had this re-painted at the yard a few weeks ago, repairing damage from other minor dings along the way, including a couple from an errant tender that ran into the boat.
We ended up having to lay our barrel fenders on their sides, floating on the water, to keep the boat off the dock. Lesson learned -- if we come into a dock this low to the water again, you can bet we'll already have the fenders floating horizontally in the water on approach. It took every fender we had, including the four big round buoy-style ones, to keep us off the dock for the next few hours. By dinner time, the wind had clocked around to the other direction, now blowing us completely off the dock, and our battery of fenders just made us look paranoid.
First. World. Yacht. Problems.
I had ended up calling the dockmaster again, to get the WiFi password, and told him about our minor mishap when he asked how it went. First thing this morning they came down the dock, took one look at the boat, and told us our dockage would be on the house for our whole stay. I went to the office mid-day to see if I could at least give them something for the power we were using, but they would not take a penny.
We had already decided to postpone our departure by the time we turned in last night, so I had today to see what I could do about the damage. While it looks awful, the real issue is that the parts where the bare metal is exposed will start rusting almost immediately, and that rust will then work under the adjacent, undamaged coatings, causing a real mess.
It was not really warm enough today to do it (the directions say apply only above 50 degrees, and today's high was 44), but with few other options I scuffed up and cleaned the damaged areas and put some Gloss Black Rustoleum on them. That will keep the rust at bay, at least for a while, and it makes the damage all but disappear. If you look closely you can tell it's different paint and an amateur touch-up job, but at a distance it is hardly noticeable. Best it not be too invisible, as the Rustoleum will have to be sanded off to do a proper repair with Awlgrip.
As long as we are in town another night, with convenient dockage, we walked down the block to another of the half dozen or so restaurants nearby for a final restaurant meal before heading offshore. We ended up at the new brew-pub in town, Tight Lines, which was excellent.
Notwithstanding my contention in the last post that our next stop would be Wrightsville Beach, one day's run outside from here, we've decided to change plans. That means we'll miss the boat parade tomorrow night, which we enjoyed very much last year. However, our weather window is good for the next three days, and then slams shut abruptly on Tuesday, and we want to get while the getting is good.
Unless the weather deteriorates, our current plan is to cast off in the pre-dawn hours tomorrow, ride the ebb out the inlet before sunrise, and aim directly for Florida, specifically St. Marys Inlet, which leads to Fernandina Beach. That's a voyage of some 55 hours give or take, three full days including two overnights, our first two-night trip.
In between here and there on the straight-line course are the infamous Frying Pan Shoals, which we will cross via a natural channel known as the Frying Pan Shoals Slue. The channel is marked at both ends and in the middle by buoys, and is said to carry at least 20' of water the whole way, but traversing at night I admit to some slight apprehension.
We do have several bail-out options along the way, should weather, mechanical difficulties, or just plain crew fatigue cause us to change plans mid-cruise. Those include Masonboro Inlet tomorrow night (just in time for the boat parade), Cape Fear Sunday morning (which would involve backtracking), Winyah Bay or Charleston by Sunday evening, or St. Simons inlet (Jekyll Island) Monday morning. On the other had, if we have a really great run and make more speed than we are counting on, we might pass St. Marys and go all the way to Jacksonville inlet.
We'll be out of Internet access about an hour out of the inlet tomorrow, and I don't expect to be back in range until Monday afternoon as we approach Florida. We have filed a float plan and our emergency contacts know how to track us, and we'll be in VHF range of the USCG the whole way.
We're looking forward to being in Florida in just a few days. While it does mean we will miss seeing friends in Georgia, honestly we are happy to be skipping South Carolina and Georgia on this pass, as those two states have always been difficult to negotiate in Vector.