Friday, September 9, 2016

Great First Cruise

As hoped, I finally got Windbird off the dock for a night and it was a very nice first mini-cruise, though not without its exciting moments. As Dawn posted on Tuesday, she's at home with the fur-child and my parents had to cancel their visit to the Carolinas, but my flying/sailing friend Lance Yesdnil flew into Myrtle Beach from Seattle on Tuesday morning. I provisioned and prepped the boat Monday night and Tuesday morning, picked Lance up at 11am, gave him the tour of the marina and boat on arrival, and were headed out of the marina by 12:45pm. We were headed to Southport, North Carolina; for some reason I was thinking it was only 20nm up the coast but closer inspection revealed a 33nm course via the ICW or 38nm offshore & up the Cape Fear River. The forecast was for lightish winds so I seriously doubted we could make Southport by nightfall given our somewhat late time off the dock. That said, I really wanted to sail, and knew we wouldn't make it before nightfall motoring on the ICW anyways. We decided to go offshore, and if our speed was such that we would arrive in Southport well after sunset we would just turn around and spend the night at Bird Island anchorage just inside Little River Inlet.


Well, the weather gods were smiling on us; it turned out to be absolutely perfect sailing conditions, with wind at about 210 at 15, later creeping closer to 20 (hard to know for sure, as the wind instrument is still dead) for a very nice broad reach. We started with main and yankee flying, later flew the staysail as well, and then as the wind piped up furled the staysail to tame the weather helm. Our speed over ground averaged a bit over six knots, and in one gust we registered a downright racey 7.9! There was one unfortunate incident on our otherwise lovely sail up the coast: the port lifeline gate came open on its own and as I bent down to resecure it, Lance let the boat drift just a touch downwind (no autopilot, remember), the main blanketed the yankee, and the yankee sheet flogged right into my head, knocking one lens out of my sunglasses and flinging the frames and remaining lens overboard. I was rather fond of those sunglasses and being prescription, they weren't exactly cheap. Oh well, my first gift to Poseidon of many to come, I'm sure.



As we turned into the Cape Fear River channel south of the Jaybird shoals, the increasing south winds collided with the river current and built up some pretty big, short, steep waves - not quite breaking but if you threw in an outgoing tide I'm guessing they might've (we arrived an hour after slack low water, so the adverse current was "only" two knots). Windbird is pretty heavy on the helm and hand-steering in those conditions was a real workout. In retrospect we should have dropped the main, because the wind was pretty close to behind us and twice a big wave pushed us around and we accidentally gybed. The first time the "EZ gybe" seemed to do its job but the second one was a bit violent, and I later discovered that it broke the boom fitting that the boom vang is connected to. It's a simple enough part but it's in a groove that requires taking off the gooseneck (or boom endplate plus another two fittings) to take the old one out and slide the new one in. We'll do it next month while the mast, boom and rigging is off the boat.

The sun set while we were making our way up the Cape Fear River and we used the last light to anchor at a nice spot in the Southport Yacht Basin (which was thankfully empty - there's only enough room for one or two boats, plan B was to take a dock at Southport Marina next door). We had a great night on the hook: grilling steaks, drinking beer, and telling sailor's yarns. The next morning I tuned up Chris Parker's weather net on 4045 kHz (SSB works at least in receive mode, yay!), then did some boat work after I discovered a hose had come off of the bilge pump's vented loop, dumping water into the compartment above the engine room whenever the bilge pump came on (propshaft gland was leaking a bit). Finally we launched the dinghy, went to get some coffee, and walked around town a bit. On our return we tidied up the boat and then spent a good 20 minutes getting the hook up thanks to some really nasty black mud that had to be washed off the chain as we raised it.


We were motoring south along the ICW by 10:45am, having decided not to go offshore due to strong WSW winds that would be right in our teeth. Besides, I wanted to see this section of the ICW and get some experience navigating across two notoriously shoal-shifting inlets (Lockwood's Folly and Shallotte). Our late start meant that we arrived at Lockwood's Folly right at high tide and Shallotte about an hour and a half after slack water; we never saw less than 11 feet on the depth gauge, which I think translates to about 7' under the keel. Otherwise it was a long, somewhat dull 7 hours of motoring, though the scenery was mostly nice. I could see several weeks of transiting "the ditch" getting pretty tiresome. We did get a lot of thumbs up from passers-by on smaller boats...maybe because they liked Windbird, maybe because they assumed we were cruising south from Concord NH! Still have to change the hailing port.


The last few miles from Calabash Crossroads to Lightkeepers Marina were excruciatingly slow as we fought a nearly 2-knot current on the outgoing tide, and then the current made for a bit of a tricky entrance (one of the red markers is missing but there's a big rock there; you have to approach at an angle, close to the rocky shore to port. With 2 kts current setting me east, my crab angle had me pointing to shore - right up until the current died as we entered the cut, requiring a hard turn to starboard). We planned our double handed docking strategy beforehand and it went extremely smoothly; we were tied up and walking to the Officer's Club for $1 taco night by 6pm. 

Howard & Michelle from La Bonne Vie were right behind us into the Marina after an eventful inaugural sail of the season, and they joined us for dinner and swapping stories. Afterwards Lance & I hosed the boat down, reinstalled dorade covers, and fixed a leaking deck plate. It was early to bed after the long day on the ICW.

Dawn and I will be returning to the boat on Sept 19th, after a side trip to Boston to meet Windbird's last owners, the Handleys. We plan to cruise the ICW and Waucoumma River to Georgetown, then come back via the 68nm offshore route if possible. Can't wait for our next sail on Windbird!

1 comment:

  1. Sam, most likely the fuel problem is due to contamination. It seems unlikely to be air leaking into the system since that shouldn't raise the line vacuum but even decrease it. Air would pass through the filters easily. You should be able to bleed the line and see the the released air. You may be able to pressurize the fuel line after disconnecting from the tank and look for escaping air or fuel (I've done this with cars before. Just some thoughts-good luck