Archive for February, 2012
February 10, 2012
We had a great rest stop in Savannah. It’s a great town, filled with history. Sherman spared Savannah from destruction during the Civil War (known in these parts as the War of Northern Aggression) so it has wonderful old buildings and cobblestone streets. Walking the old downtown is fun and educational. Staying at the Westin’s marina allowed us access to all the resort facilities, so we enjoyed the hot tub, fitness center, sauna, and golf course. A free water ferry provided transportation across the river to downtown. Bradley and I had a chance to catch up with a long lost friend Ann Marie, daughter of one of my closest friends. We enjoyed meeting Ann Marie’s husband Matt and son Jack. Matt is an Army helicopter pilot and he took us to the military base to see his Chinook. It’s quite a machine and we greatly enjoyed the chance to see it up close and personal! We walked through many of the squares reading all about the history of Savannah and visited the Ship Museum and the Mickve Israel Temple, the third oldest Jewish congregation and only Gothic-style synagogue in the US.
Our dockmate at the Westin marina was a 102 foot boat called Who Cares, which travels along with its two fishing vessels named So What and Whatever. We loved the names and enjoyed meeting Captain Richard. We hope to catch up with the boat in the Bahamas in a couple months. After a great few days of relaxation, good food, and nice people, we were ready to make the 320+ mile trip to North Palm Beach, a journey that would take a little less than two days. The Savannah River has 8-foot tides, so we departed just before noon in order to make it out of the Savannah River on the ebbing tide (so as not to go against the current on the way out) and to arrive in Palm Beach after sunup two days later. Conditions were good, though not quite as smooth as the previous legs. Since leaving Jarrett Bay, we’ve been keeping a list of the things that aren’t working quite right – there are quite a few things on the list which we will address in Florida, but none that we can’t work around (and these will be reported on in a separate post for those who are interested).
After an uneventful night during which we saw little traffic, we had some morning visitors – literally dozens of spotted dolphins that swam along with us for over an hour, frolicking in our bow wake and performing stunning acrobatics. No matter how often we see dolphins, we just never get tired of it! Next it was time to give the fishing poles a try. Out went the lines and then – nothing. Hours passed, the wind blowing about 20-25 knots, and waves building to 4-5 feet. Suddenly, we heard it – the fishing line making its distinctive noise! When we hook a fish, we slow the boat down in order to bring it in. Even a small fish is difficult to haul in at a speed of 8 knots! And this did not appear to be a small one. But when we slowed the boat down, the autopilot immediately sounded an alarm and lost its heading. Other alarms started going off. As we stopped our forward progress, the stabilizers lost their ability to hold the boat steady and the building waves started to rock us nicely. Mind you, the boat has no problem with this, but it’s amazing how different it feels to the crew when you’re getting knocked about. John was on the back deck trying to reel in a monstrous fish, with Leanne assisting, Bradley and I were trying to get our electronics settled down, and meanwhile several things in the galley and salon went crashing to the floor.
Things were soon under control again and we made a note of all the things that had set off alarms. Mostly it was caused by our satellite compass losing heading information – a problem we had experienced in similar conditions during our shorter sea trial in Beaufort. This remains on our list to fix once we reach Palm Beach. However, it became clear that we could not slow the boat enough to recover the fish (we were doing 6 knots in neutral) and if we wanted it, we would need to turn into the wind and waves and go back towards it. Regrettably, we decided not to do that and cut the line. Although we lost the fish, it was an excellent sea trial, confirming a few things that need to be fixed. Besides the fish, we also lost a bottle of wine which crashed to the galley floor during the rough part. Fortunately, it did not fall on our brand new carpet!
As night fell and we cruised along the Florida coast, the traffic increased. We passed several ships and tugs, including the Carnival Pride cruise ship, which it seems we pass on every trip up or down the coast! As dawn approached, we arrived at Palm Beach. We entered Ft. Worth Inlet and dropped our anchor so that the guys could dive and inspect and clean the bottom of the boat. They did this with great efficiency, pleased with how everything looked and giving the bottom a very gentle wipe to remove any burgeoning growth. We raised our anchor and continued on into Old Port Cove Marina where we will be for a few weeks while we wrap up our repairs.
Click below to see a video of the sights and sounds from our passage to Savannah (on Youtube). It is meant to show various aspects of a passage and is not set to music so that you can hear some of the actual sounds. It lasts a little over 6 minutes. Continue down for more photos.
And finally, here is a video of the dolphins we saw along the way.
February 4, 2012
Our next planned stop was Savannah, a trip of just 54 miles. Savannah lies about 15 miles up the Savannah River, a heavily used commercial waterway. Ideally we would have liked to leave St. Helena in daylight and enter the Savannah River in daylight, but the short days and the distance involved made that a difficult task. So we decided to pull our anchor in the late afternoon and enter Savannah at night. All went well and we again had a calm and pleasant passage. We continued to keep notes about small problems with our new systems that will need to be addressed in Florida, but again, most everything performed well. We reached the mouth of the Savannah River at about midnight and though it’s been a while since we did a night entrance to a busy port, Bradley handled the navigation and radio duties like a pro. We passed several ships that were outbound and were overtaken by a few that were inbound. By 2am we were safely moored at the dock of the Westin Golf Resort and Spa. We are looking forward to some sightseeing and relaxation here! And since we have a good internet connection here, below are some photos from our last day in Beaufort and our trip to St Helena Sound via Charleston. Click on any photo to enlarge.
February 1, 2012
We have awoken to a wonderful morning in St. Helena Sound in SC, between Charleston and Hilton Head. Our departure from Jarrett Bay went smoothly and we’ve had amazing weather for the first few days. For the first leg of our trip, we wanted to do a day trip in order to test our new systems more extensively. We thought of going to Wrightsville Beach, but it has a tricky entrance and we would be pushing the limits of daylight by the time we got there. So we decided instead to depart Beaufort, see how everything went for the first couple hours and then either return to Beaufort or, if things were going well, continue on overnight to Charleston.
We could not have had better conditions for this trip. Unlike our sea trial of a couple weeks ago where we were tossed around pretty good, this time the seas were calm and peaceful.
There were a few minor problems with our systems, which I will detail at the end of this post for those interested, but for the most part, things worked well. After the two-hour assessment point, we decided to push on to Charleston. We saw very little traffic along the way. We did encounter a Canadian Naval Warship and a US Warship conducting exercises and had our first ever VHF radio call with a US Navy Helicopter, which was hovering just above the water and asked us to alter course. As sunset approached, we prepared for an overnight passage. What a gorgeous night! The skies were clear and there were millions of stars. Seas were calm with winds from between 10-20 knots. Electronics, stabilizers, and electrical systems all performed well. We pulled into Charleston Harbor in late afternoon escorted by a bunch of playful dolphins who put on a great show and dropped the hook (anchor). Although we have some good friends in Charleston from our previous visits there, we did not call them as we did not plan to launch the tender and go ashore. It was just a place to get a good night’s sleep before continuing on.
The next morning was perfect. After a beautiful sunrise above Ft. Sumter, we raised anchor and continued south to St. Helena. Along the way we conducted some testing of our autopilot system (see below) and gained even more confidence in our systems and how to use them. The past four months of work now seem worth it. The cruising guide book we have warned that the entrance to St Helena is very tricky with lots of shoaling but we had no trouble coming in. Once again a greeting committee of dolphins played on our bow and we were anchored in time for a perfect sunset. The only disappointment of the day was that we had deployed our fishing poles for this trip but had failed to catch a fish. So it was leftovers for dinner – which wasn’t bad – we made a fabulous oyster stew with the leftovers from Steve’s oyster roast!
For those that are interested, here is a summary of some of the issues we had on the way. I will be providing a more detailed report of all the work we did in the coming weeks.
- We have NavNet 3D and Nobeltec Trident which provide chart plotting and other navigational aids. These systems do talk to each other so that a route created in one system is automatically sent to the other. There were a couple cases in which we activated or modified routes in NavNet and had to close and restart Nobeltec in order to have them show properly. We’re still learning how to use these systems together effectively.
- On the first leg, our autopilot had difficulty making turns of more than 30 degrees. It would oversteer, then have difficulty correcting. On the second leg we conducted some tests and changed a setting in both NavNet and Nobeltec – the waypoint arrival radius. It turns out this was set too low – to 100 feet. That meant that the software did not recognize that we had arrived at a waypoint until we were on top of it, then by the time the autopilot received the instruction to turn, we were past the waypoint, meaning the turn had to be larger. By increasing the “arrival radius”, we now “arrive” at the waypoint and send the instruction to the autopilot 300 feet in advance, making for a smoother turn and no more oversteering. We’ll continue our tests on the next leg.
- We noticed that in Nobeltec the “Time to Go” to a waypoint is sometimes incorrect and different than that shown in NavNet. We will report this to Nobeltec.
- We have had several sensor failure alarms on our Furuno 2100 radar. We are continuing to record and gather information to diagnose.
- We had one instance of NavNet shutting down unexpectedly.
- When we replaced our Nauticomp monitors, they come with controllers which power the monitors on and off, allow input selection, and provide dimming for night use. Initially, the controllers did not dim the monitors. This was corrected by Nauticomp with a software upgrade (which required new units to be installed). The new units did dim the monitors properly, but did not dim themselves. As a result, at night, the monitors were dim but the controllers were lit up like little neon signs! We had to cover them with paper towels to preserve our night vision. Nauticomp has a fix for this already, so we will correct when we arrive in Florida.
The above list is not meant to be complete or extensive – just to give you a feel for the kinds of things we are experiencing. Luckily none of them are serious enough to be safety issues. We continue to be very attentive when on watch and very conscious of every waypoint change when running on autopilot!
Once again, photos on this post are limited due to bandwidth issues – we are using an AT&T tethering data plan with a Telular device which provides a boat based wifi system. But it’s not high speed and we have limits on data. However, it is nice to be here where all we can see is water and shoreline with no people, no boats, and no cars in sight and still have internet and cell phone access!
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