As noted in the previous article, we arrived the Morehead City Yacht Basin fuel dock at 0815 hours on Wednesday morning. Our goal was to take on fuel, top off our water tank, offload garbage and, since the forecasts looked favorable for following seas …
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As noted in the previous article, we departed Venice at 1140 hours on Saturday. Our goal was a fuel stop in Morehead City North Carolina, which is approximately 900 NM from Sarasota.By early Sunday morning we were off Everglades National Park when we f…
Reader Note: This blog has been silent since the last trip south from Hinghan to Sarasota, which, incidentally, set what I believe will be an all-time record for cooperative weather and running time (i.e., 7 days and 7 hours). My lack of activity resulted from being heavily involved in editing my daughter, Lesley’s, doctoral dissertation and a bit of laziness. Lesley successfully defended her dissertation in March and graduated from Northeastern University’ College of Professional Studies with an Ed.D on May 10th.
Now to our story. As usual, the process of transitioning our residence from Sarasota to Hingham involves preparation including crew, maintenance, food, weather and, most critical for this trip, the route out of Sarasota Bay.
The crew decision came early in December when Morgan Watt decided to do another journey. Morgan crewed with me in 2017 with Guy Aries so this would be his second time. Morgan is eminently qualified as second in command as he has both a pilot’s and captain’s license. Morgan flew jets for NetJets for 17 years. Needless to say, he brings considerable experience with navigation, communication and weather. Morgan nominated his father, David, as the third member of our crew. David too has boating experience and has taught boating safety classes.
|David Watt, Morgan Watt and myself at departure.
My friend, Jim Lampl, in the background cam to see us off
Food for the journey north is a “no brainer.” Morton’s Gourmet Market provides prepared entrees, called “Gourmet Meals To Go,”and their executive chef, Fernando, prepared some special dishes including mushroom ravioli; Dijon chicken with fingerling potatoes and Brussell sprouts; and chicken pico degallo with fingerling potatoes and green beans. Add to this their standard fare including grilled salmon, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, veal cannaloni and eggplant rollatini and you have the makings of gourmet meals. The rest of the provisioning process is outlined on an Excel worksheet. The key to provisioning is to have food for 9 days. That requires 27 dinner entrees which are frozen and stored in the freezer. When we depart Sarasota or Hingham the freezer and refrigerators are stocked close to capacity. Fortunately, the 63 has a full size GE Monogram side by side refrigerator.
Maintenance. Dealing with repairs and maintenance during the winter of 2018 in Sarasota proved to be an exercise in frustration and considerable expense. Needless to say, almost every repair required multiple visits by my service personnel. They literally could not fix anything it right the first time. I may treat this a separate blog article, perhaps as a way of venting my frustration. We finally finished all maintenance and repair tasks on day before departure.
Now to weather. As of Friday morning at 10:45 AM we had favorable conditions all the way to Cape Hatteras. Winds off the Florida Keys were forecasted to be around 10 knots with seas 2 to 3 feet on Saturday. Heading north off Cape Canaveral the forecast called for north winds 10 to 15 with 2 to 3 feet seas on Sunday. Farther north on Monday, at Jekyll Island Georgia, NOAA was calling for east north east at 10 to 15 knots with seas 3 to 4 feet. Waters off Cape Fear on Tuesday showed winds less than 10 knots and seas 2 to 4 feet. Finally at Cape Hatteras they were calling for west winds 10 to 20 with seas 3 to 6, which for us would be mostly a following sea.
The next important decision is how to depart from Sarasota Bay. This decision involves tides, winds and seas. The easiest way is via Sarasota Big Pass. But this route comes with a tricky ever shifting shoal at the mouth of the pass. The slowest and safest way is south on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GICW) to Venice. This route, however, involves four (4) bridges and several no wake zones.
This year I chose to map the route through the Big Pass shoal by following the fishing party boat on on its daily run out to the Gulf fishing grounds. My AB RIB is equipped with a depth sounder and Garmin Chartplotter. What I found was a controlling depth (i.e., the shallowest spot) of 6 feet. This strongly suggested that the best time to traverse the route was at high tide. “High tide” in Sarasota adds 2 feet of clearance. So, at the shallowest spot we would have 3 feet of clearance. The high occurred on Friday, August 27, at noon time and that fact and the forecasted seas of 2 feet of less dictated our departure time.
The crew arrived on Friday, April 27 at 11:45 AM and by 12:21 PM we were on our way. At 12:51 , one hour after high tide, we traversed Big Pass. Seas were less than a foot, largely to due to protection of the 2 mile sand bar to the west. Our depth sounders lowest reading on the planned course was 1.5 feet. We were now successfully in the Gulf and headed south.
Around 14:00 I noted an alarm on the stabilizer control panel that read as follows”High Oil Temperature / Warning Only / Check Cooling System.” This alarm indicated that the hydraulic fluid was overheating. This is a precursor to a full overheat would could damage the system. Catching it early was good news. The bad news is we had to shut down the stabilizers and would not be able to continue the voyage until the problem was resolved.
Fortunately, winds out of the northwest at 10 to 15 and seas under 2 feet were favorable to a complete shut down of both engines. Now adrift approximately 5 NM south west of Venice, Morgan and I began to process of trouble shooting the problem. We immediately noted no water flow at site glass and that hydraulic fluid level was full. This indicated a blockage somewhere in the cooling system.
Fortunately we were within cell phone range. This facilitated contact with Randy Ives, Outer Reef’s Warranty Manager, and Robert from ABT TRAC, who at the time was located in the United Kingdom. We decided to work with Robert since he was the expert.
We first checked the sea strainer basket. It was clear and this was no surprise and I had verified that all six sea strainers were clean the day before departure. With the sea strainer cap off we opened the through hull fitting and verified the water was flowing freely. We then removed the hose leading from the sea strainer to the impeller. It was clear. We then removed a housing at the impeller and checked that the impeller was spinning. Then we verified water flow from the impeller to the site glass. Water was flowing up to the site glass and this suggested a blockage in the head exchanger. We then removed the zincs from the heat exchanger and noted that the lower zinc was broken off from the plug and jammed in the hole. The broken zinc was a problem but not sufficient enough to block the water flow.
At this point we had narrowed the blockage to the heat exchanger. If this were the case, we would need, at a minimum, a mixture of hydrochloric acid and water to clean the strainer. Unfortunately we had none aboard. We decided to head for Venice and called the Crows Nest Restaurant for dockage, which was available. The Crows Nest is located just inside the Venice Inlet.
|Guided Discovery at the Crow’s Nest|
Venice was approximately 5 NM to the northeast and we headed for the inlet. This put the seas, which had build 2 to 3 feet, on the port side. As we traveled northeast we noted that engine bilge light on the annunciator panel (over the helm) was indicating that the bilge pump was operating. We appeared to be taking on water. Sure enough, that was the case. I discovered that the port side engine room port hole was open. Worse, the 24 volt battery charger that sits just aft of the port hole has shorted out due to salt water entering through the cooling vents (a $1,300 loss). I have never opened any port holes. Hence checking for open portholes is not on my Engine Room Checklist.
I surmised that when Master’s Touch Marine Services technician, Joey, replaced the 220 volt ISO Boost transformer he had left the port hole opened. I then notified Master’s Touch’s owner, Jeff Quattlebaum, of the error only to learn that Jeff, himself had opened the port hole when he was painting the 16KW generator. Jeff forgot to close it.
A normal trip takes 9 days, weather permitting. The plan is to depart Hingham at 7:00 AM, cruise non-stop for three and a half days to Morehead City where we refuel, hopefully in two hours or less. Then it’s back on the road for three more days with a …
|NOAA overview page showing dismal East Coast weather|
From there the weather story gets worse. As the week leading to departure progressed, NOAA was predicting a very deep (i.e., tropical storm deep) low forming southeast of New York. That low was predicted to track north slowly into northern New England and then into Canada. Powerful 25 to 30 knot southeast winds with gusts to 60 were forecasted for Sunday at Hingham.
|Jim grabbing a sunrise photo|
|One of 5 spectacular sunrises|
The weather forecast for the offshore waters between Montauk Point (Long Island New York) and Cape Hatteras showed 2 to 4 foot seas with a worst case of 3 to 5 footers and winds from a low to 5 knots to a high of 20 knots. Most important, no storms were in the forecast through Monday. Given that we would reach Morehead City on Saturday morning we had a two day margin of error. Our decision. Let’s go for it.
|Before Sunrise on Wednesday morning|
|We pass Minot’s Light, Cohasset, Massachusetts.
Minot’s sits in open water
|Speeding through the Cape Cod Canal on a favorable current (4 knots at times)|
We arrived at Cape Hatteras’ Diamond Shoal on flat water at 4:56 PM on Friday. That is a rare occurrence.
|Direct Cape Hatteras
Notice that we are off the continental shelf (deep water)
All is not gold that glitters. The time savings had a consequence. It resulted in our arriving into Morehead City at 3:00 AM. Fuel docks usually open at 8:00 AM. Hence, we would have “blown” our entire time savings sitting on their dock. Not efficient.
- Wednesday 05:41 depart Hingham
- Wednesday 11:09 arrive at the Cape Cod Canal – zip through canal at 12 knots
- Wednesday 14:40 arrive west end of Buzzards Bay – straight line to Cape Hatteras
- Friday 16:56 arrive at Cape Hatteras’s diamond Shoal – straight line to Cape Lookout
- Saturday 00:36 arrive at Cape Lookout – straight line to Cape Fear
- Saturday 09:49 arrive at Cape fear – straight line to Fernandina Beach
- Sunday 12:46 arrive at Fernandina Beach Inlet – straight line to St John’s River Inlet
|We make a straight line down the coast. A first
Approaching St Mary’s Inlet and the Fernandina Beach Municipal Marina
At 12:46 PM we turned southwest into the St Mary’s River and called the Fernandina Beach Municipal Marina to alert them of our intention to take on fuel and our arrival time. Oops. Big Surprise! The dockmaster informed me that they had “still” no fuel thanks to Hurricane Matthew (September 2016). The dockmaster stated that Port Consolidated had fuel but they were closed on Sunday. When I asked if we could stay the night he informed me the Matthew had destroyed their face dock and that besides being “no room at the inn” there was not enough depth for the 63’s five foot draft.
All trips should be so easy.
Written by Les.
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