Friday, January 6, 2017

North Shore

We are tied to the free city dock in Mandeville, Louisiana (map), on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This is a great spot, with free 30-amp power and a three-night stay limit. We have a scooter on the ground and have been getting some errands done.

Sunset over Lake Pontchartrain Tuesday, through the gazebo, from our aft deck.

We ended up staying at our impromptu berth at South Shore Harbor all the way to Tuesday morning. I was absolutely miserable all weekend, and since the construction site was dark no one came by to ask us to move. We figured we could stay right up to Monday morning with no issues and that's what we opted to do.

Monday, however, an enormous storm blew in, and we were quite literally pinned to the dock by 20-30kt steady winds, with gusts much higher. With some effort and 370 horsepower I could probably have gotten off the dock (at some risk), but we decided to wait it out unless the construction guys came over to ask us to move. I was still not operating on all cylinders yet, either, so just as well. The construction guys had their hands full, wrestling crane loads around in the high winds, and seemed to take little notice of us.

By nightfall the storm had passed and we had clear skies and calm weather overnight. Tuesday morning had us shrouded in fog, but otherwise good conditions for a departure. We made ready to leave, and as I was wrapping up my second coffee the construction superintendent wandered over. They asked how long we planned to stay, and I'm not sure what the reaction would have been if we did not say we were making ready to depart. We did not want to be in their way, and we were also tired of being confined to the boat.

With the fog apparently lifting and the harbor dead calm, w dropped lines and maneuvered to head out into the lake. Out intention was to circle back around the airport and drop the hook close to the canal, so we could tender ashore. Between when I started the engine and when we motored into the channel, the gap in the fog closed back in, and we made our way out into the lake by radar and breadcrumbs.

We had a good breadcrumb trail on the plotter all the way back to the anchorage, and despite increasingly heavy fog we decided to continue to the anchorage. At this point, Louise decided to re-check the weather, which had previously indicated we could anchor on the south end of the lake for two nights before north winds would pick up and force us to the north shore. Conditions had changed, and now it looked like we'd have to leave the south shore Wednesday morning, and even then we might have a bit of a rough ride across the lake.

That made a single night near the canal an unappealing option, and before we even cleared the airport runway approach lights, we made the decision to simply continue right across the lake to Mandeville. The lake was nearly glass calm, so a great time to cross, other than the fog. We were literally the only boat on the lake, according to our AIS and radar displays, so we turned the radar gain up, activated the automated fog horn and continued across in pea soup. Near the edges of the lake the occasional crab float would come into view, but none was close enough to warrant an adjustment.

It takes three hours to cross the lake, and we arrived here shortly after lunch. We made a radar approach to the marked channel, and I turned off the fog horn once I had the markers in visual sight. The city dock is just a short distance from the channel entrance and we had no trouble coming alongside and getting tied up. Unsurprisingly, we are the only boat here and we had our choice of spaces; there are eight service pedestals along the dock.

Both our guide and the signs along the dock said to go to the nearby Pontchartrain Yacht Club to get the required permit to stay at the dock. I had called them on the phone mid-lake to confirm this, and also to ask if we could have a package sent there (more on that in a moment). It seems to be a nice club, but we do not have reciprocal privileges there. The secretary told me she had been hearing our foghorn for some time.

With permit in hand (well, actually, stuck to a window visible from the street, as required), we set about hooking up the power. The power on this dock is strictly 30-amp, 120-volt, which Vector could not make use of when we bought her. Way back in February I added a bypass to connect our 120-volt inverter input directly to such power, so we can at least charge the batteries and run most of our appliances and personal electronics; this is the first time that we've actually made use of it.

Things that are not connected through the inverter don't work with this arrangement, including our main heat and air conditioning, the clothes dryer, and some fluorescent lights in the engineering spaces. None of those things is critical for a few days, but it turns out that one important appliance is on this same list: the water heater. Not a problem for Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, as we had plenty of hot water from crossing the lake (heated by the engine), but I would need to do something about this before shower time Wednesday evening.

We put one scooter on the ground Tuesday afternoon and that got us to a nice dinner at the excellent Gio's Villa Vancheri a few miles away, after a nice ride along the lakefront and through the quaint downtown, still nicely decorated for the holidays. There are a handful of restaurants that are a longish walk from the dock, too, but the scooter allowed for some more interesting alternatives.

First thing Wednesday morning we got a call from good friends and fellow Red Cross volunteers Don and CC. They were on their way from their home in Texas to visit yet other Red Cross friends in Alabama and were going to be passing us on I-12 in a couple of hours; they'd seen me post our Mandeville destination on Facebook. I gave them some quick directions to the dock, and after a brief tour of Vector we caught up with them over a nice lunch at a nearby diner. It was a great visit and we all wished we had a bit more time together.

Spectacular sky last night at sunset.

I spent the afternoon rewiring the water heater so that we could run it on the inverter circuit during our stay. That basically involved removing the hard-wired power cable and installing an appliance cord with a three-prong plug, which I could then run to a nearby power outlet with a heavy extension cord. Today after buying parts at the Ace Hardware in town I terminated the former hard-wire cord with a three-prong inline outlet, so changing this back and forth in the future will be, pardon the expression, "plug and play."

Today's project was somewhat less pleasant. The aforementioned package I needed to receive at the yacht club arrived, containing a new pump for our shower and vanity sump. The pump quit working during my shower late Monday night, and we've been making do since then by using the galley sinks (which don't need a sump) for brushing teeth and the like, and manually emptying the sump with the wet vac for showers (whoever is not in the shower has to man the vac at the sump). The new pump is now in place, and I am glad to be done with the tedium of opening the bilge and setting up the vac before every shower.

After a pleasant few days, temperatures are again dropping, and we are using some portable electric heaters to keep warm, along with Meriwether in the pilothouse. Notwithstanding our original intent in installing that system, I think we have now used it more in heat mode than in cooling mode. We also have the electric blanket on the bed.

This evening on our way back from dinner we stopped at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in town to provision for the next couple of weeks, and also to pick up the new trim tab anode for the dinghy outboard. While that seems odd for a supermarket, it turns out that you can order pretty much anything on that way using the free site-to-store option, even to their grocery-only Neighborhood Market stores. This proved to be the easiest, fastest, and also cheapest way to get that oddball part here to Mandeville. The outboard dealer in town did not have one and could not get one as quickly.

Tomorrow is officially our last allowable day here, and we will probably shove off in the afternoon and anchor someplace not far from here. Our next stop is still under discussion, but if the weather in the Gulf cooperates, we may head down the rest of the Mississippi and cross the Gulf to Pascagoula before making our way back along the ICW.

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