Weather dictated that we would again do the Norfolk-Beaufort trip inside down the intracoastal. We have this pretty much on auto now, and apart from frustrating delays at the Gilmerton bridges the first day, and at the Great Bridge Lock the second day, the first three days were uneventful.
We were hailed by our friends on Sabbatical who were at AYB as we passed by. We hadn’t seen them since Washington DC last year. The end of the third day we arrived at one of our favourite anchorages, just out of the Alligator River, not far from Belhaven. We again spent a peaceful night there, with two other sailboats at a respectful distance.
The next day the weather wasn’t good, but we had planned a short trip of about 30 miles across the Pamlico River and planned to overnight in Bay River where we had anchored previously. As we exited the canal into the Bay River, a squall hit us and we chugged ahead into 40-45 knots of wind, inching our way up into the river marshlands to get as much protection as we could. We dropped the anchor in torrential rain and wind, but thankfully this dropped later in the day. We were tightly squeezed in a not very big hole with shallow water all round us, and more squalls predicted overnight. It was probably one of the most frightening nights we have spent on the anchor. Ted slept in the pilot house on anchor watch, but all was well thanks to our great Rocna anchor. The next morning conditions were much better and we had a nice run down the Neuse River and through the canal to Morehead City. We had come 220 miles since York River and it was already feeling milder.
The forecast suggested that we might have a good window to make the run directly down to Brunswick –offshore rather than stop halfway as we did last year. We left early Saturday morning, with several other boats following us out the Beaufort Inlet heading south. We had about a 50 hour passage to Brunswick, and conditions surprisingly remained as predicted, with winds and seas mostly behind us. Apart from some choppiness as we passed between Winyah Bay and Charleston off the South Carolina coast, it was comfortable and we both managed to get some sleep during our off watches. We turned around the sea buoy into Brunswick right at daybreak 48 hours after leaving Beaufort, and motored against the current up to the marina at Brunswick Landing. We hailed Dockmaster Ralph who was expecting us and gave us the usual great welcome.
Roam was tied up further down the marina, with Clark and Michelle now back in Texas with family for a couple of months. Istaboa had moved to another marina in Brunswick and hailed us as we entered the inlet. Again our VHF wasn’t working properly and we resorted to cellphone. They were departing back to Florida for a few days but would return after Thanksgiving. Tivoli had already moved on, and we felt a bit like orphans arriving too late for the party!
We did find that Mark and Michelle on Reach were still at the marina. We had met them with Roam while in the Raggeds in the Bahamas, and over the next week we spent time together before they left for Antigua to pick up their new catamaran and bring her back to the US. Then Kya arrived and we had buddies again for a few days. Mike and Katie had scheduled three days in New York to see shows and surprisingly they asked us if we would dog sit Penny.
I have never lived with a dog, and am known for not being dog friendly, and in the case of big dogs, am actually terrified of them. But I thought, this will be good for me – so many of our friends on boats have dogs, and here is an opportunity for me to learn about how to behave around a dog. So in a massive leap of faith, we agreed to take Penny onto Southern Star for four days and nights. Penny turned out to be an easy house guest, and was very mellow with us. But definitely no plans to get a dog of our own!
We had scheduled the stop at Brunswick to hopefully get our interior upholstery redone. This was getting increasingly saggy and ripped and I was embarrassed having guests on board with the state of the seating. Friends on N55 Chinatsu had their upholstery done in Brunswick and we had already contacted Overall Upholstery to get a quote, and to be factored into their pre-Christmas schedule. The quote was good and we moved ahead getting this big job finally done. The new seating in the salon and pilot house, including the pilot house berth, looks great, and is a major improvement for the boat.
We also found someone who could service our Sub Zero fridge freezer, which needed freon gas; a cabinet maker who modified the teak kick panel to allow better airflow into the fridge compressor; and a guy who could fabricate an aluminium tray to fit on top of the main engine. And as always when we are stopped for any length of time, spares were ordered, the follow up lever for our autopilot was sent off to Simrad for replacement, a new alarm and controller for the propane and a new VHF antenna were ordered and fitted.
The autopilot repair turned out to be more problematic than initially thought, and after several days trying to diagnose the error message, Ted finally talked to our electronics guy in Florida who sent us a replacement computer. We do have a second autopilot, but have not run this sufficiently to trust it on the 40 hour passage down to Fort Pierce.
The delay meant we would not make Fort Pierce by 20th December which was already two weeks later than we had originally booked. We decided to take the pressure off ourselves and cancel our reservation there, given technical and weather constraints. So we now need to find another Florida destination for January.
Ted picks up here.
And so our stay in Brunswick, which I call Velcro marina, has lengthened.
We have been here now for most of the major commercial holidays. The Marina puts on a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, which we attended. We also were here form Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
We have sort of settled in here, and we have met some nice folks here in the marina. We get to spend time with our Aussie friends, Michael and Katie on KYA. We have become friendly with some of their old Pacific cruising friends, Rob and Becky on Manatee, a Gulfstar 45 sail boat.
I have taken the opportunity of being in one place for some much needed replenishing of supplies and making repairs.
As Jenny mentioned, we had the Subzero refrigerator serviced, here. We had the kick plate on the bottom of the Sub Zero modified to let more air across the compressor and condenser, and it looks better being covered.
I had a guy from the HAM radio club over to test our VHF radio and antenna and learned we needed a new antenna.
I replaced the 12 volt compressor on the air horn, and cleaned the diaphragm. I had an aluminum tool tray made the fits over the top of the main engine.
I replaced the shower fan in the aft/master head. We spent a long and hard day running the sensor wires in the LP control/alarm in the galley. Ordered a spare motor for the crane (this was a major failure last season in the Bahamas). We had to trace a smelly leak in the septic system, when we discovered some smelly crust under the drawers in the guest cabin. Removing panels in the back of the hanging locker we found the vented loop for the forward head was leaking. We found new duckbill valves and ordered a couple extras as spares.
This project leads me to chasing the wires down in the hanging locker to the light which stopped working.
I sent away our follow up lever in the wheel house to Simrad for a replacement. It took some time, and shortly after Christmas it was back but when I put it back on line, the rest of the Auto Pilot failed. I spent a week trying to diagnose and repair the 18 year old system. I kept getting multiple failures, tried a new controller, made numerous changes to the set up, we finally decided to buy a new and reliable Auto Pilot system.
And so our next stop is Stuart Florida for the install. This has been a real personal setback for me. We have had our share of maintenance issues, but nothing that has been MAJOR. But to have to replace something as non-sexy as the Auto Pilot really does hurt. Nice new shiny plotters, a new N2K monitoring system would be nice. I was really wishing to add the solar system to the boat this year in Marathon in the Keys: But now, not sure if we can afford it.
We have polished and waxed the entire topsides of the boat: A big, but rewarding job.
Luckily, the weather has been pretty nice here in Georgia. The cold fronts have stopped coming this far south. We biked the other day in 70 degree temperatures. The mosquitos have also come out in the mild weather, making any stops in the grass or in the parking lot very quick as the mosquitos are vicious.
We have used the folding bikes almost daily. Brunswick is very easy to get around on bikes. We are finding the locals very friendly when we are on our excursions. We are complimented on them almost every time we are out.
We love to spend time with Michael and Katie and Penny (their adorable Aussie Doodle).
We purchased a ‘fire stick TV’ dongle, and we have been binge watching Netflix, and watching Blue Bloods, NFL, and a variety of other programs because the WIFI in the marina is very good (thanks Bob On Spot WiFi)
And now we are watching the weather again to make our way further south, to Stuart. We will use our back up auto pilot for the trip. Realizing we should have used it before now. We hope that it works correctly.
It’s time to leave Velcro Marina.