Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yacht delivery

We are anchored in an old standby, a wide spot off Adams Creek near Beaufort, North Carolina (map).  We remembered from our last visit that we found some WiFi here, welcome after a full day spent off-line.  We stopped early today, with the hook set before 2:30 or so, just two and a half hours short of our next stop in Morehead City.

We got under way from our anchorage in the North River yesterday by 7am, having started preparations at first light.  As expected, conditions were very calm, and we had a lovely crossing of the Albermarle Sound.  Before we even made the Sound, Louise did her first engine room check, and came back to the bridge with a look of absolute defeat, reporting that the stuffing box had already climbed past 90 degrees.

I, too, felt a bit defeated at this report, but I suggested we give it a short while for the packing to "seat in" after my adjustments.  After her next check 20 minutes later she reported it was down into the 80s, and the check after that it was back into the 70s, and right at the delta-T we expected and had seen prior to all the yard work.  What a relief.

It took many more checks throughout the day before we were comfortable enough to declare victory, but it would appear at this point that the crux of the problem was the obstructed hose.  Once it was properly repacked after clearing the obstruction, things worked as they should.  There was a brief remission today, when the temperature started climbing again; I actually needed to tighten the now-seated packing just a bit to again force the water to where it should be.  We seem to be running at the proper temperature again.

As long as the packing was working right, I was comfortable adding more RPMs to get a bit more speed while we had good weather.  We ended up cruising at seven knots most of the day, in part due to the slickness of our brand new bottom job and clean propeller.  We had such as good run that we were at the anticipated end-of-day stop before 1pm.

That stop was the last possible anchorage before a marathon three-hour transit of the Alligator-Pungo Canal, a monotonous man-made cut  nearly ruler-straight and lined with stabilizer-killing submerged tree stumps.  If we had arrived at the entrance to the canal any later than 1pm, we could not have entered without risking arriving at the next possible anchorage in the dark.  As it was, though, we felt we had plenty of daylight to make the transit.

Our good run of speed held, and we exited the canal into the Pungo River well before dusk.  We ended up pushing all the way to Belhaven, where we anchored in the harbor just behind the breakwater (map) just after sunset.  We were hoping to find some WiFi there, or even a usable cellular Internet signal, but it was not to be, and we did the best we could with low-speed email on our phones.  Our last visit to Belhaven, as well as the stop at the aforementioned anchorage north of the canal, were both chronicled in the same blog post.

Another reason we pushed to Belhaven was that we wanted the protection of the breakwater for the forecast heavy winds overnight and rough seas today.  We even supposed we might be pinned there for another day.  But things were calm enough this morning that we got back under way shortly after 7am.  With sunset before 5 each evening, an early start is essential to make any progress.

The weather did deteriorate, and we pressed on through some chop and heavy fog crossing the Pamlico River.  We also had heavy fog on the Alligator yesterday, in the same spot that prompted our first use of our fog signal over a year ago.  Angel tolerates the fog signal after the first couple of blasts, but George never got used to it, and having to sound it yesterday and today made both of us think of her.

Exiting the Hobucken Cut into the Bay River we started to find some really rough stuff, but with winds astern it was not at all bad.  The already high winds were being exacerbated by a line of thunderstorms as we approached the turn into the Neuse, and when we made the acute turn to starboard, the now 40-50kt winds were on the beam.  The best the stabilizers could do was to get us within 5-10 degrees of level, and we pressed on for the next hour listing to port and slamming through three foot waves.

Rather than cut across to Adams Creek via the most direct heading, I steered as close as possible to the peninsula to our north, to cut the fetch, and by the time we were approaching Oriental the combination of naturally subsiding winds, land to windward, and a narrower section of river had the sea state back to something easily manageable.  We looked in astonishment at the plotter that said we could be in Beaufort at sunset.

Now I have a sense for what a yacht delivery skipper goes through.  On our last pass through this area we were in no rush, and we were in the mode of stopping frequently to see the sights.  Also, we had very little experience, and a 20-30 nautical mile day seemed arduous.  Now we are focused on making mileage -- start at sunrise, go to sunset, and make every bit of headway possible in between. Yesterday we did 67 nautical miles, probably a record for us for an inshore, one-day run.

Somewhere in all of this we had to think about Thanksgiving plans.  On the schedule I had set before yesterday's departure, we thought we might be in Oriental, or even Belhaven, now both behind us.  In Belhaven we realized we could easily make Beaufort, but with no Internet it was hard to make plans.  We ended up doing it all today while we were under way, catching whatever cell signal we could along the way.

While I had hoped to stop in Beaufort proper, having only ever anchored, or stopped in Morehead City, on previous passes, we could not find a venue for the holiday meal.  There were some cruiser pot-luck options, but that's not what we were seeking.  Instead we found that Floyd's 1921 Restaurant in Morehead City was doing the traditional meal.  When I called, I found out that they had been sold out for nearly two months, but they were taking pre-orders for holiday meals "to go," with all the trimmings.

By the time I lined up dockage, at Portside Marina (where we've stayed before), and called back to pre-order two meals, a fortuitous cancellation had happened. The woman who first took my call held it for us and when I called back she booked us a table for two at 3:30.  I'd rather be lucky than good.

We did not feel the need to buy two nights' dockage just for Thanksgiving dinner, so we stopped here instead, with a short run tomorrow morning.  We ought to be tied up by noonish, and have a nice half day to relax before our next leg and get in some holiday calls to family.  As luck would have it, when I went to close out the day's log entry after dropping the hook here, calling up the mileage on the plotter revealed we had just completed 5,000 nautical miles.  Our friends with Nordhavns get a pennant for this milestone; we'll have to settle for an extra glass of wine with dinner.

Right now the weather forecast for the Atlantic Ocean on Friday is marginal, having deteriorated a bit since yesterday's forecast.  Tomorrow we'll know whether it will be acceptable or if we will have to wait until Saturday for the outside run to Wrightsville Beach via Masonboro Inlet.  Either way, that will be our next stop after Thanskgiving in Morehead City.  At this rate, we will be in Florida in another week or two.

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