Monday, July 1, 2013

Update on Bella

Dog Attack? Bella seems to be doing fine after the dog attack.   The battle of the dog crate?  She won.  While clamping the zippers shut worked one time, the next time she met us at the door of the tug upon our return.  When I looked at the crate, she had ripped a long vertical hole in the netting that covers the front.  So I found my sewing kit and sewed it shut.  I quadrupled the thread and made sure it was well secured. The next time we went to dinner, however, Bella greeted us at the door again!  When I looked at the crate, my mending job was wet, chewed and wide open.  So we put the crate away and hoped for the best. Most of the time we took Bella with us. But if we didn't, she never caused any issues.

I found this picture of Sarah walking down the Ocracoke Beaches.  I thought it was a nice way to end the Blog.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Final Leg of Journey

June 28, 2013

I hate the Albemarle Sound.  I hated going across it from Elizabeth City to Ocracoke and I hated it today as we left Alligator River.  A quote from describes the experience perfectly.

The Albemarle Sound has the deserved reputation of sporting the roughest inland waters on the Eastern Seaboard. North Carolina’s two predominant wind directions, southwest and northeast, tend to funnel all the way up or down the sound’s entire length. Coupled with the relatively shallow depths (only about 15 to 18 feet along its mid-line), this long wind fetch often spawns short (close together), steep chop which can sometimes jar the fillings out of your teeth.

The waves this morning were forecasted at 1-2 feet, but were closer to three as we made our way up North. As we got hit from the chaotic waves, the boat leaned over a little too much for my comfort. Once again, we put on our life preservers and we put everything in the sink that was sitting out.  For the first time the whole trip, Bella was shaking too. I think this was worse than the storm yesterday because the rocking and rolling lasted so much longer.  Also, we had to be diligent on crab pot patrol.  We passed Ocean Music as we tried to find a way out of the turbulence. Our tug has better stability when we travel at a faster speed.  Finally, we entered the creek up to Coinjock. Everything was calm again.  Soon Ocean Music passed us as we slowed down. Sarah came up to the helm and helped me navigate. It was before noon and we decided not to stop in Coinjock.

We had been reading about the Atlantic Yacht Basin in Great Bridge. reviews raved about the maintenance work. So we decided to head on up to that marina and get a haul out to have the repair work done on the rudder seal.  (7-16-2013 Update:  The rudder seal was replaced and the bilge is very, very dry!!!)  You can read more about it here:

It was another long day. We left Alligator River Marina by 7:45 and we made it to Great Bridge by 3:00.  It was above 90 degrees with no breeze as we pulled in.  Once I knew we were hauling out, I had about an hour to pack up everything. When we docked, we tossed everything out as quickly as possible to be able to get the boat hauled out before they closed. Sarah took Bella for a walk. Then we saw Rainshadow get lifted out of the water.  

Watching Rainshadow haul out
This is how our trip ended.  We waited a couple of hours until our older daughter, Kelsey,  could pick us up a bring us home.

The next day, Charlie and Kelsey went back to the boat to leave the rudder seal kit and close the boat.  They also worked on the white rubber streak on our hull from leaving Beaufort.  They were successful in buffing it out - with a lot of elbow grease I might add.

It was a good trip, we met wonderful people, experienced new places and learned a great deal about cruising!  We also grew more attached to our tug. She got us through some pretty hairy experiences, with a ton of help from Charlie.

I began writing this blog at the request of They just launched a new beautiful blog site.  Sometimes they post a story from my blog. But I am no journalist. This is hard work!  Take a look at the site. There are also professional journalists and good stories.

As a memento, Charlie created this track of our trip. The orange circles are all the places we stopped.

Intracoastal Waterway Trip June 2013

Storms in Alligator River

June 27, 2013
Around 8 am this morning, we left Oriental.  Charlie was not happy with the weather pattern.  Thunderstorms and strong winds were forecasted in the area over the next few days so he wanted to head north.  We considered skipping Belhaven and make the long trip to Alligator River. We planned to take the Virginia Cut back to Norfolk, since we had experienced the Dismal Swamp route going south.  We traveled through the chop of the Neuse River into the Bay River.  The canal after Bay River was very calm and we passed the fishing boats at Hobucken Marina on a hot, lazy day.  
  We crossed the Pamlico River, then the Pungo River and made the final decision to skip Belhaven and headed on to Alligator River Marina. The weather was windy, there was a small storm to the east, but all seemed fine on radar.  We entered the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal. This canal was also very calm and scenic.  Charlie and I began testing our speed at different RPM’s.  At certain RPM’s, the difference in speed is negligent and not gas efficient. We were trying to find the optimal RPM.  All of a sudden we felt a very strong jolt.  There is a famous saying about boaters: Either you run aground or you are lying.

Well, we are not lying.  We had run aground.  The one other time we ran aground, we needed a tow. This time, after measuring the depths around the boat, Charlie decided to use the bow thrusters to get Rainshadow moving again toward the center of the channel.  The head on current helped also.  It worked! So we continued up the canal. Soon, however, we lost all internet access. For a long time. We still had our charts, but no weather and no phone.  A few boats were passing us in the canal and one of them was Sorrento.  They called us on the radio to let us know they were passing, but for some reason we could not talk to each other.  But they passed with no issues.

Finally, we turned out of the canal into Alligator River and what we saw made our hearts sink. There was a large storm approaching and the water was very agitated.  The internet came back on and we pulled up the weather radar. 
Weather Radar
  Charlie said we had no choice. There was no way out of it, we were going to get caught in it.  Rainshadow was getting tossed around in the waves. We saw lightning hitting in front of us and we saw the storm front approaching fast.  I put a life preserver on myself, Bella and Sarah.  I brought a life preserver in the helm for Charlie. We had Sarah go into the berth which is a few steps below the helm, just in case we were hit by lightning.  She was reading a book (The Knife of Never Letting Go) and it would keep her mind off the storm.  I was desperately looking for the red markers and reading the chart to help Charlie stay on course while he battled the wind and waves. Every time we passed a marker, I yelled it out and  put a red sticky next to the marker number on the chart so I could remember the next marker number.  I wanted to get to that marina so bad!  The rain began to pour and we could not see anything in front of us, though the tugs radar would help us see what's ahead.  Items not put away were being thrown about the boat. We were trying to hold on as the boat was getting hit with waves.  I sent an email to my family that we were heading into a storm, but I did not want them to know how scared I was.  I felt like we should be telling someone else what was going on.   All of a sudden, I received a text from my admin at work.  I decided she would be the one I would communicate our location.   But I didn’t tell Charlie.   He radioed to the marina and the Alligator Swing Bridge that we were heading into the storm.   I kept searching for markers, letting him know when I saw one and then typing it into the phone. Here are screen shots the conversation with my admin.  I think it paints the picture quite well. My conversation is in the blue, she is in the gray. She is trying to calm my anxiety.

Thanks to Charlie’s expert handling, we made it through the storm and into Alligator River Marina, which as Sarah described it, is a car place in the front and a boat place in the back.  Already docked was Sorrento, who was also stuck in the storm.   Ocean Magic who we had met in Beaufort was also at the marina.

Once we secured our boat. We heard outside, “Bella!”  We looked outside and Sorrento’s dog had gotten loose. We guessed her name was Bella too.  She was a yellow labradoodle. She was running like the wind chasing birds and ignoring her owners. At one point, she headed to the highway.  Her owners went running down to the highway. I could only imagine their panic.  I saw her go around a small hill. So I went outside with a dog treat and called her name. She looked at me, looked at the birds and then decided I was a better bet. I grabbed her collar and all ended well. 

We were beat from the long trip and the storm.  The dockmaster told us we had to put our order in the grill in the station by 6:30 because they close by 8.  That was not problem.  We ate a good dinner and went to bed!

Alligator River Marina

Oriental, NC

June 26, 2013

This morning we headed to Oriental.  Right before we left, I met a woman who was cruising the Great Loop. She was on the trawler behind us, Ocean Magic.  They had started in Florida and were headed to the Great Lakes and then down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and back home to Florida.  I think she was missing home already.

We have been dealing with occasional water in our bilges since we bought Rainshadow. Water mainly gets into the aft bilge.  The bilge pump gets rid of most of it, but occasionally we have to manually eliminate the remainder.    Charlie rigged a hand held water pump with a garden hose and wired it to electricity to handle it.  This morning after discussing the issue with other tug owners and the manufacturer, there appears to be several contributors to the problem, mainly water coming through the swim platform door and possibly a bad rudder seal.  Tomco (makers of the American Tug) was very responsive and mailed the parts needed for the repair.   Other American Tug owners have very dry bilges, so we are optimistic this is something that can be fixed once we get back to home port.  (Update 7-16-2013:  The rudder seal was replaced and the bilge is very, very dry now!!)

The wind was blowing and the current was strong as we left Beaufort.   It was so strong, we hit the side of a dock as we were leaving. The dockmaster yelled, “Don’t worry!  It’s rubber..  you just have some white paint across your hull. It will buff out!”  I hope so.

Good bye Beaufort
As we waited for the bridge opening out of Beaufort, the dockmaster called us over the radio. He reminded us to not cut across to the intracoastal waterway because of the Shoal.  He said to go around it using the Russell Slough Channel, stay between the red over green marker and green 7 marker.  He said plenty of boats have grounded on the Shoal, eager to get to the intracoastal waterway.  We were very careful watching the markers as we made our way up the Adams Creek Canal to the Neuse River.  In the chart below, the intracoastal waterway is marked by the dashed lines.  We are entering from the bottom of the chart, following the yellow highlight. You can see why some boats jump over the shoal.

Watch the Shoal leaving Oriental!
The rest of the trip was very warm, but uneventful. 

Bella and Sarah Chilling in the Salon
 When we arrived at the Oriental Marina & Inn there were just a couple of boats in the marina.  I asked the dockmaster if the town was easy to bike around.  He scowled, “Of course it is. This town is just entering the 1970’s.”  Come to think of it, the marina does remind me of the 1970’s.  But, it had power, water, cable tv, a pool, very clean showers and bathrooms and  a restaurant.

Oriental Marina & Inn
After securing the boat, Charlie and Sarah went swimming while Bella and I took a walk.  As we headed back to Rainshadow, The  Polly P. docked next to us. The owners brought their two Boykin Spaniels – Frances and Catfish.  Bella was very happy as they all played together.  I was unfamiliar with the breed.  They explained that it was the official state dog for South Carolina and as you head south more people are familiar with it.  I looked it up on the computer because I forgot to take a picture.  So here is the picture I found when I googled “state dog of South Carolina.”

Boykin Spaniel
Charlie, Sarah, Bella and I decided to go bike riding through town. It was a short trip. There was a nice park on the Neuse River where we stopped to enjoy the view.  We bought delicious ice cream at the local coffee shop “Bean.”    While we ate our ice cream, we talked to a local group sitting on the front porch and then we headed back to get cleaned up for dinner.

When we came out of the boat for dinner, the marina was full of boats and they were having a party.  The New Bern Yacht Club had decided to get together in Oriental that day. Things were hopping in the restaurant when we had dinner.  Someone from the New Bern Club said, “Hi Cathy! “as I entered the restaurant.  I smiled and said “Hi” back so I didn't have to take time to explain that I was not Cathy.  I was hungry.  Our seafood platter was very satisfying.

After dinner, we enjoyed the evening with the owners of Polly P.  We toured each other's boats and then had a beer on top of Rainshadow. We shared our sea stories and our dreams.   They told Charlie about an attachment for the cordless drill that allows you to pump out water more easily than using the rigged pump. Charlie’s eyes lit up. I think it is now on his wish list.  They also gave us tips on good books. They highly recommended for Sarah to read “The Knife of Never Letting Go.”  I downloaded it on our Kindle for the trip tomorrow.  They suggested Charlie and I should read “Honey, Lets Get a Boat.”   When I googled it, this is what I read:

This is the story of a couple's travels on a forty-foot trawler cruising 6300 miles and 145 locks around the eastern part of North America known as America's Great Loop or the Great Circle Cruise. Their nautical ineptitude is evident from the beginning, but pulling from their personal and collective strengths, the authors overcome doubt, a lack of experience, and real and imagined horrors. The odyssey is told the way life hands out its adventures -- sometimes humorously, sometimes tragically, but always memorably.

I can totally relate. 

Rainshadow (in the middle) docked next to Polly P. (on the right)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hanging around Beaufort

June 25, 2013

We stayed another day in Beaufort.  First we visited the Maritime Museum, which was free.   The city promotes the museum for the relics discovered in the mid 1990’s from Blackbeard’s shipwrecked The Queen Anne’s Revenge. We were pleasantly surprised to find a great deal more. There is one section exhibit that is dedicated to the history of boats and Beaufort. Some of the model boats were exquisite in their detail.  

Early Dawn Three Model

The Silver Clipper -  full sized
Afterwards we took a bike ride around town and looked at the historic homes. It really is a nice part of town, but a little difficult to bike.  Charlie rode his bike in front, Sarah followed him and I followed Sarah.  At one point, Charlie decided to make a sharp turn to the right.   Sarah could not turn fast enough and her bike crashed to the street.  Sarah was a good sport, but her knee was scraped up.  We went back to Rainshadow to apply first aid.  Now we both sport matching bandaged knees!

That evening Sarah and I decided to bake some cookies.   While the cookies were in the oven, Charlie and I began talking with the boat owners of the boat docked beside us, Emerald Isle. The couple aboard live in Massachusetts and had taken their boat to Beaufort from Florida. They had more experience boating than us and gave us great advice.  We had a wonderful time speaking with them.  So wonderful of a time, that I burned the cookies.  I threw the batch out and tried cooking another batch.  Unfortunately, that batch burned too.  I finally figured out that I needed to move the tray to the middle rack.  I only had enough dough for three cookies by this point. So we put the cookies in the oven and kept our fingers crossed.  After 9 minutes, we had three perfectly baked cookies, enough for each one of us.

Emerald Isle next to Rainshadow
For dinner, we ate at a dockside restaurant again with Bella at our feet enjoying the Beaufort Breeze.

Storms to Beaufort

June 24, 2013

We had packed up the bikes and prepared the boat the night before so we were able to make a fast exit this morning from Ocracoke.  We tried to follow a ferry out of the channel, but it was too fast and it went outside the channel!  So we decided to take it slow and careful on our own. I used our binoculars to find the markers for Big Foot Channel while Charlie navigated Rainshadow.  Soon we were in the Pamlico Sound once more. The water was more turbulent than a couple of days before, but not bad. 

After about 2 hours, we saw a storm approaching.  We could see lightening in the distance.  Usually, we have two ipads on the helm with two different navigating apps  - one utilizing the US Marine app and the other using the Polar Navy app - the chart plotter and radar. Because the radar only reaches a few miles, it did not show the storm. We had left so fast this morning; we had not looked at the weather.  Now, we wanted to see a radar!  The ipad using US Marine lost a signal in the middle of the Pamlico sound, so we couldn't use that to look at the weather.   The PolarNavy app had lost a signal, but because it used charts already loaded, it was still monitoring our position appropriately so we did not want to use that ipad to look at the weather.  Charlie tried pulling up on his iphone, but the signal was not strong enough.  I had a later version of the iphone  and I was able to pull up  This is what we saw:
Approaching storm
  Yikes! We decided to slow down and let the storm pass.  Sarah and I put on our life jackets just in case things got bad.  Charlie estimated that we would only get some rain and that it would pass before we got there.  Just in case, I lowered the VHF antennae.  Charlie was right, except for rain, we missed the storm.   By the time we entered into Adam’s creek, the storm had passed and the water calmed down.  It was a beautiful ride into Beaufort. (North Carolina, not South Carolina.  This one is pronounced Bo-fort, with a long o.)

Helm gadgets to help us navigate through storms.
As we got close to Beaufort, we had to really pay attention to the markers.  There is a wicked current and the winds are strong.  We waited for the bridge to open (on the half hour) and went through to the docks.  At first, the dockmaster put us in a slip that was at the end of the marina,  a long walk to the bathrooms. But Charlie talked to him and we moved to the slips closer to the bathrooms.  After we docked, we  decided to divide and conquer the chores. I went to the Laundromat at the General Store and Sarah (my youngest) and Charlie washed off the boat.

Fresh Flowers along Beaufort's Boardwalk
At the General Store, I put three loads in the washers. While they cleaned, I walked the beautiful historic section of town.  By the time I got back to the Laundromat, the wash was done and I put the wet clothes into three dryers and sat down to wait.  I was the only other person there.  Soon after, though, a young woman and man entered the Laundromat.  They took their wet clothes from the washer and placed them on a table.  They were in a very animated discussion about our country’s gender identity crisis.   She did not like the pronouns “her” or “he”, but preferred “they.”  The young man said it did not matter to him.   He was a very colorful speaker and began saying things that made me uncomfortable.   I am not sure if it was the discussion, or the dryers, but sweat began dribbling down my neck and a wave of claustrophobia took a hold of me.  I kept wondering why they would not stop talking long enough to put their clothes in dryer.  I decided to check my dryers early, before the timers went off. The clothes were nice and dry, so I quickly threw them in the bag and offered the dryer to the couple. They accepted and thanked me.  I made a quick exit and headed to Rainshadow, contemplating some of the issues that were discussed in the Laundromat and vowing to be more tolerant of difference in the future.  

That night, we went to a restaurant on the boardwalk. The town is very dog friendly and Bella was able to sit with us outside on the deck enjoying the warm Beaufort breeze.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spotted: New Grady White 37 dual console

June 24, 2013

Today we woke up at 5:30 to leave early. We were headed to Beaufort  and we wanted to beat the afternoon winds.  As we were leaving, someone came up to us and pointed to the Grady White behind us.  “That is the brand new 37 foot dual console – not on the market yet.  It is being test driven by Mr. Grady White, himself – David Neese.”   The boat had been docked right beside us and we had noticed many admirers nodding appreciatively as they circled the vessel.  But the marina is full of beautiful Grady Whites and the boaters who handled the 37 foot Grady White seemed to be enjoying their day just like everyone else.  We did not understand the importance yesterday. But now we did.  I took a photo as we left.

New 37 foot Grady White