Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dolphins, and an overdose of quaint

As I promised at the end of Tuesday's post (after we dropped the hook off Fort Macon), I have uploaded the video I took of the dolphins frolicking in our bow wave, taking advantage of some marina WiFi. It's nearly a minute and a half, and as is always the case, a cell phone video just can't do it justice. The dolphins are easier to see if you choose high-def.

Final sunset at sea, taken just after the dolphin photo above.

In the middle of the dolphin play, I also snapped a photo of our last sunset at sea. So the light was already fading when these guys showed up. Still, the water is so clear in the Gulf Stream that we could see the dolphins a long way down. I'm sorry I did not catch a breach, but if you stick with it you can see them doing barrel rolls and other play behavior.

We had a pleasant night there off Fort Macon, and the nearby dredge and its fleet of tugs did not make enough noise to bother us. It was so hot in the afternoon, though, that we did have to run the generator for several hours to air condition the boat, even though we had arrived with fully charged batteries.

One of the very few ships we passed in the ocean. This is from about three miles away.

When we awoke yesterday morning, we noticed our friends Brad and Lorraine on Adventure were anchored just a few hundred feet from us. My email alerts from Marine Traffic said they had arrived at 2:30am. They hailed us just as we were getting ready to weigh anchor, and while we were not able to get together here, perhaps we'll run into them further north.

Adventure, a Nordhavn 55, anchored off Fort Macon park.

We weighed anchor at slack tide to move over to the Beaufort Town Docks (map). We've been through here now several times, yet we've never made it to downtown Beaufort, despite recommendations from many other skippers that it is a "must-do" stop. We might just as easily have continued on our way north, but we needed a grocery store, auto parts, and a place to offload the recycling and trash. We also wanted a full day of air conditioning -- I'm getting daily "Heat Advisory" alerts on my phone, as it is 10°-15° over seasonal norms here right now.

We were tied up at the docks by 10:30, before the worst heat of the day. We got two tokens for free draft beers at the nearby Dockhouse Restaurant, the code for the WiFi, and use of one of the small fleet of courtesy cars to go get to the grocery and auto parts stores. At $2.75 per foot, plus power, this is one of the most expensive docks we've ever used, but we'd otherwise have run the generator for most of that time, to the tune of $80-$100 for the day, which somewhat softens the blow.

Sunset over Vector at the Beaufort docks. Louise is standing in front of a piling, making her hard to spot. The Burger megayacht "Ingot" at left came in after us and left ahead of us. The crew seemed green.

I'm glad we did it -- once. The town is quaint, in that artificial way that so many tourist traps are quaint, and we did enjoy an excellent dinner at Plaza Mexico across the street and a passable breakfast at the Boardwalk Cafe right at the end of our pier. And there are plenty of good restaurants here, which speaks to a possible return visit in cooler weather when we can anchor out and dinghy in for dinner. But otherwise the whole experience is a bit over-rated, as we expected.

I should note here that, as with some other "must stop" marinas along the ICW, much of the positive feedback comes from delivery or training skippers and their customers. Which makes sense -- we, as owner-operators, tend to anchor out, or look for marinas that represent the best value, whereas delivery captains are never spending their own money -- they make the same rate whether they dock their customers' boats at Portside across the channel for $1.50 (power included), or at the Beaufort Town Docks for $2.75. So why not stop at the place with the most amenities/convenience/access?

Beaufort at our doorstep.

And it was certainly convenient -- the bulk of the downtown is just steps from the docks. They also had an amenity we sorely needed -- used oil collection. And while the courtesy cars are old clunkers (common for marina cars), they have a small fleet of them so you're not on a waiting list for hours to go run your chores, and they were fine for getting to and from the grocery.

Aside from the grocery run mid-day, we confined ourselves to the boat until dinner time, when things cooled off just a bit. I used some of the day to change the oil on the main engine, somewhat overdue. The half hour run from the anchorage in the morning was enough to get the oil warm without making the whole engine room intolerable, and I left the door open with a fan blowing cool air in from the stateroom. A hand-crank oil change pump makes this chore a snap on the main.

The generator oil was also overdue, and I changed that after dinner. It's a more fiddly process, with a poorly positioned hose that is supposed to drain by gravity but is not at quite the right angle. Plus the oil filter is mounted horizontally, ensuring used oil will get everywhere in the process. The auto parts stop was to get a couple of extra gallons of 15W-40, as these two oil changes used up nine of the ten gallons we had aboard, and I wanted a bit of margin.

Vector at the docks this morning. Ingot has already left. That's the closest anchorage in the background, mostly full of moorings.

We lingered this morning as long as we dared, taking advantage of as much air conditioning as we could use. But it can be tricky getting out too long after slack, so we shoved off in time for the noon bridge opening in Gallant Channel. It was a very short cruise to where we are tonight, a familiar anchorage off Adams Creek just south of the Neuse (map). It's really the last option before Pamlico Sound.

Unfortunately, the heat wave continues unabated, and we had a hot afternoon. Even jumping in for a swim was not much help -- the river water is 91° right now. As I type we are again running the generator for air conditioning. Still, at about $4 an hour, we can run the generator 24/7 for less than staying in Beaufort, so moving along was the right call. Other than sampling another restaurant or two, we've already seen the whole town.

Tomorrow we will get an early start for Pamlico Sound via the Neuse River. It's two days to the protected anchorages of the North River via the Sound, so tomorrow night we'll be anchored in moderate protection along the shoreline mid-Sound. Experience says we'll likely not have any cellular coverage there so I expect we will be off line.


  1. Something to try if you have the room is to put something under the outer end of the oil filter and punch a hole in the bottom end.

    Bill Kelleher

    1. I did that, Bill. You actually have to punch two holes (I use a Philips screwdriver); one on the end at the bottom to drain the oil, and another in the side at the top to break the vacuum and let air in to drain it. Even so, oil gets everywhere. Once you start to unscrew it, whatever is left at the gasket end gets all over the block, and then as the aforementioned two holes pass through the 12-o'clock and 6-o'clock positions (about four times or so each), more oil comes out all over your hand.

      The other problem with horizontal mounting is that you can't fill the new filter up with clean oil before installing it, which means there's another second or so on start-up where oil pressure is low while the new filter fills up.

      Periodically I think about buying an adapter to convert to a vertical mount, but it would be a tight fit in the sound enclosure and the project is just not high on my priority list.

      The filter on the main engine, fortunately, is mounted vertically. It's huge, taking more than a quart to fill.


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