November 20, 2012
We planned to make a brief stop in Portsmouth but are still here, watching every day as gale warnings are posted for the Cape Hatteras area. The wind down there has been steadily in the 30 knot range with seas of 8-12 feet, so we will stay put until it looks a little more comfortable! The Portsmouth/Norfolk area is a fun place to be stuck. We had a chance to visit some great friends who moved here several years ago, Gary and Cookie and their brand new addition, little Ruth. I rented a car and did a quick trip up to DC, where I met up with several good friends, attended a breakfast event for the Northern Virginia Tech Council, and scheduled routine doctor and dentist appointments. I also got to visit another baby, this time my friend Christeen and little Sophie. In the meantime, Bradley and Taylor stayed on the boat doing some projects and having some service done on our main engines
We’ve had a chance to do some exploring in the area. We attended the Norfolk Illumination Parade – this takes place after dark on the night they light up all the office buildings with holiday lights. It was a fun event and marked our second parade in two weeks! We also went to Nauticus, the Naval Museum in Norfolk where we enjoyed the exhibits and some short movies and went aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin. We also have plans to see the new movie Lincoln at a local dinner theater – an old style theater in Portsmouth that serves dinner while you watch a movie.
We are planning to depart to head south to Florida as soon as the weather allows. We have fueled up, taking on 2700 gallons of diesel. But we’ve had a solid week of gray skies and strong winds here in the marina and can’t wait to get back out where we belong! For those interested in technical details, scroll down below photos – there is a technical problem that YOU ALL can help me with!
WordPress – this is the site I use to host our blog and they have recently added the ability for you to REPLY to updates you receive via email and have a comment posted to the blog and emailed to me. This was working very well for the posts during Sandy and I heard from dozens of people. However, with my last post on Nov 13, it seems this function quit working. I received only two replies and when I tested it from my own email, the replies never showed up. WordPress tech support has not been able to determine what went wrong but is standing by for this post, so if are getting this update via email, please HIT REPLY, type in something (like “this is the best blog in the world and you are such a great writer”) and hit SEND. Hopefully this will help us track down the cause of the problem. Also, I’m sorry to say that if you replied to my last blog post, I most likely did not see your response.
Engines – the primary reason for stopping in Portsmouth was to have some routine work done on our main engines by the local diesel specialists. The work went smoothly, mostly replacing gaskets and seals and checking for leaks and potential problems. In order to access the engines, the valve covers had to be removed. When the starboard cover was put back on, some cracks appeared around the bolts that hold it in place. Unfortunately, this can be a big problem as it can allow oil to leak. There were definitely not cracks there when the work started. But in a classic case of customer service finger-pointing, the service guys say it is a product defect and not due to anything they did (even though the mechanic did not use a torque wrench or follow the exact instructions for replacing the cover). For now, we have removed the cover and replaced it with a loaner. I’m sure this situation will be resolved satisfactorily, but it will take cooperation between the service group and the manufacturer.
iPhone – this isn’t exactly a boat problem, but the speaker on my iPhone quit working. I took it to the new Apple store in Norfolk and they replaced the speaker in the store, so I was in and out in 30 minutes. Yea!
Sat phone/weather – We are starting to plan for our trip to the Bahamas for the winter, so I have been researching weather services that are effective using a satellite phone with limited bandwidth. I have tested several services but think I like Buoyweather. It allows me to create favorite locations anywhere and to have forecasts emailed on a preset time schedule. The emailed forecasts are text based and very small and can be requested in a variety of formats. I’m using it on a trial basis for now using our regular internet service since we do not currently have a satellite SIM card – we will get one when we get to Florida before we head out of the country.
Gulf stream – one consideration in planning a trip up or down the east coast of the US is the location of the Gulf Stream which runs from Florida all the way to Newfoundland. The Gulf Stream moves more water in one day than all the rivers in the world combined, so it is a force to be respected. It creates strong currents which help you if you are heading north or hinder you if you are going south. Knowing the location of the Gulf Stream is important in planning a trip. Many of the NOAA forecasts for Florida tell you the specific location of the Stream for various points along the Florida Coast, but there is no similar information available for the Carolina coasts. We are especially interested in the Cape Hatteras area as we need to stay inside the western edge of the Gulf Stream but far enough offshore to be safe (the Stream is not fixed, its location changes as it meanders). The easiest way to determine the location is by looking at the water temperature – water in the Stream is significantly warmer than water outside. When you are in or near the Stream, you can even see the difference. We have learned that the Stream is typically 25-40 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, so we will plan to stay between the shore and the western edge of the Stream. We’ll keep a close eye on boat speed and water temperature while staying as close to the coast as we think safe given the conditions and we are looking at the SST (Sea Surface Temperatures) on our daily weather forecasts.