Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today's Weather and Guided Discovery

The NOAA weather forecast for Sunday at 3:00 AM was for northeast winds 25 to 35 KT with gusts up to 40 and seas 9 to 12 feet on the open waters.  At 8:00 AM, NOAA showed the same winds but had upped their wave height prediction to 9 to 14 feet.  Their forecast was prefaced with "GALE WARNING IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE MONDAY."

Not good weather especially for a run  north along the Alligator River and across Albermale Sound. Further, with a gale warning in effect it is highly likely that the railroad swing bridge over the Alligator River will be closed making the passage to Coinjock impossible.  We decided to stay put.

The key to go/no go decisions is the ability to compare forecasted to actual conditions.  Is the weather behaving the way the forecasters said it will?  Guided Discovery is incredibly well equipped to deal with this critical comparison.

One extremely good decision was to equip the 63 with a weather station and two Garmin GMI 10 Marine Instrument Displays, one of which is used exclusively for weather.  This allows us to see what's going on where we are located.  Some of the most useful screens are displayed below.

Wind direction and speed at a glance

Wind speed, wind direction, temperature and barometer
This is the display we leave on all the time

Wind graph showing wind speed for the past 6 hours
The wind graph is probably the most valuable especially in a weather situation like today.  We set the graph last night for 6 hours and winds to 50 knots.  In the above photos, the digital readouts change constantly. The graph allows us to see the trend.  In the above graph you can see  the winds building as the morning progresses.  This is an indicator that the weather is behaving as forecasted.

We can get the NOAA weather forecast in one of three ways at the dock; from our computer, from our ipad and from the Garmin 15 inch multifunction displays.

Both Garmin multifunction displays showing Sirius Satellite Weather
Forecasted high and low pressure with fronts graphically displayed.  Note the low pressure area off South Carolina

Sea conditions showing wind direction, wind speed, wave height and wave direction
In the above photo wave heights are displayed in color to note activity in an area. The colors change from light blue (calm water) to deep magenta (waves 30 feet or more).  Wave direction is shown by arrows. Specific wave heights are obtained by tapping on a red arrow.  In the photo above the wave height at the encircled "X"  are 13.1 feet.  Another indicator that the wave action is behaving as forecasted.

Precipitation occurring at the moment (lousy photo)
Using Sirius Satellite Weather we can get the forecasted highs & lows, fronts, wind direction, wind speed, wave heights and wave direction from right now and for the next two days in 12 hour increments.  This allows us to gauge the trend.  Most important, we can get this information while underway and out of cellular signal range, which is critical for long range cruising.

At the dock we are now using NOAA ( rather than Weather Underground, which tends to dumb down the data.  NOAA tells it like it is and the site is more robust.

Additional data that we can get in cellular range is from a great ipad application called Buoy Data.  While hard to see in the photo below, we can tap on the buoys for each state.  The buoy's are listed with their locations. Tap on one and it gives you the location on the map in addition to the latitude and longitude. This is particularly helpful especially for cruisers like us.  NOAA display buoys with the name of their location, which is great for locals but difficult for cruisers transiting an unfamiliar area.

In the photo below we are looking at the data for Duck Pier NC.  The map shows the buoy on the Outer Banks north northeast (NNE) of Albermarle Sound in relation to our location in Belhaven.  This data is particularly critical for us this morning as it provides a good indicator of the winds that are likely to effect our transit in the open 30 mile stretch of the Albermarle Sound where we would be headed directly into the wind.

The data at 8:30 AM shows the following:

  • Wind direction: N (10 degrees)
  • Wind speed: 26 knots
  • Wind Gust: 31 knots
  • Atmospheric Pressure: 30.11 inches (1019.7 mb)
  • Air Temperature: 51 degrees Fahrenheit (10.5 degrees Celsius)
  • Water Temperature; 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9.3 degrees Celsius)

Data for a buoy critical  to our decision making on whether to stay or go
The 63 could easily handle the 3 to 5 waves that we would encounter late in the afternoon (assuming they didn't close the swing bridge) on the 30 mile stretch of Albermale Sound.  However,  we would be taking the waves head on (i.e., off the bow). We would experience some pitching and a lot of spray.  Slightly uncomfortable but not unsafe. That said, docking could be a problem as the 63 presents a "barn door" and with winds at 25 to 30 knots she would be pushed around.  I suspect that the thrusters could neutralize their effect but would not move us very quickly.

Meanwhile as we sit here in Belhaven at Dowry Creek Marina we are pinned to the dock by the northeast wind.  We have four fenders taking the load.  Last night before going to bed at 3:00 AM and this morning at 7:20 I needed to adjust the fenders.  I do not know how to calculate the effect of wind pushing close to 85,000 pounds of boat but I can state that I can barely move the 63 in zero wind.

To adjust the fenders I needed to turn on the engines as the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters are driven by the engine's power take-offs.  I was actually able to adjust the fender solo using the Glendenning Remote Control. Holding the remote in one hand and the fender line in the other I was able to re-position the fenders.

Important Lesson:  When I tied up on Friday I put out two fenders positioned horizontally against the pilings. This was clearly inadequate in light of the forecast.  The result was that as the tide change the fenders slipped out of place and the rubrail contacted the piling.  Bad luck.  The metal bolt head (smooth and round) that hold the piling in place made contact with the rubrail and slightly damaged the fiberglass (but fortunately not the rail itself.  This could have been a lot worse..  Not a big deal but it served as a reminder that I have to be vigilant and constantly think ahead.

Written by Les.

Rough Weather - Beaufort to Belhaven NC

We spent four days in Beaufort, partly due to the weather and partly because this is a nice place to stop. That said, even if Beaufort was not a good place to stop we would have had to stay there because of the weather.

Diana and I pose with the Beaufort Docks courtesy car
Notice the jackets - It's getting colder as we move north
We stayed at Beaufort Docks, which is right at the heart of their downtown area.  We took several walks, toured their historic district and enjoyed two of their restaurants, a quaint little coffee shop called Beaufort Coffee Shop and Wine Bar and dinner at Clawson's.  We also took advantage of their courtesy car (actually twice) and did some serious provisioning.

We had not used a courtesy car since 2010 when we completed the western rivers on our Great Loop adventure.  Beaufort was in the "serious" courtesy car business.  They had four, all Buick Roadmaster Wagons from the early 90s.  The two we used had over 180,000 miles and were in rough shape.  But they got us where we wanted to go.  Perhaps that was their justification for $2.50 per foot.

Readers will recall that we traveled to Beaufort on a 25 hours overnight cruise (4/13-14) from Charleston, SC at the tail end of a weather window.  That window closed on late on Monday evening with heavy rain and strong winds out of the northeast.  The strong winds persisted through Thursday.

On Friday, the winds were predicted to be northeast at 10 to 15 knots, which while not ideal, was the lowest winds in past four days.  The winds were also predicted to be out of the northeast for the next 5 days as the strong low pressure center over Florida moved slowly northeast.  You might say this was a one day weather window.  We decided to take advantage and cruise 67 miles further north.

Explanatory Note: Strong low pressure, especially over the ocean, produces high northeast winds and big waves.  The slow moving storm coming out of Florida was forecasted to produce northeast winds of 20 to 25 knots and 7 to 10 foots seas from Friday night through Monday.  As I write this early Sunday morning I can testify to the accuracy of NOAA's weather prediction.  It was dead on.

Explanatory Note: Wind over open water produces waves.  The higher the wind and the longer the fetch (distance) the higher the waves.

Departure was early as usual for a long cruising day.  Today's route took us slightly east to the Beaufort Inlet and then north through Morehead City's commercial harbor to the ICW.

We encounter a freighter being towed into port

The ICW for this stretch consists of canals, rivers (Neuse and Pungo) and sounds (Pamlico and Albermale) that make up the North Carolina Inner Banks.  The canals and narrow parts of the rivers are easy, calm water as there is little fetch except for long stretches with winds coming straight down the canal.  The wider parts of the rivers and the sounds are prone to rough water.

We pass a 75 foot vintage yacht built in 1930 in pristine condition

The we overtake a one barge tow
(Not as intimidating is the 15 and 25 barge tows we encountered on the Mississippi)

We pass a group of commercial fishing trawlers
This was the case as we proceeded north.  The Neuse River has a north south orientation and was choppy with 2 to 3 foot waves.  The Pamlico Sound was the roughest with 3 footers on the nose.  That said, except for a little spray, the 63 rode smoothly with negligible pitching.  Further, running the boat from the pilothouse with great windshield wipers was a piece of cake.  We would have been miserable on this run if we were still "driving" the 48 Sundancer.

As we turned north on the Pungo River I called the Belhaven Marina and discovered that they were booked solid for the night.  Lesson 1.  Do not leave port without a reservation when you are driving a 63 footer. However, we lucked out.  The dockmaster directed us to the Dowry Creek Marina just 3 miles further east. They had room on their gas dock and we were set for the night.

Guided Discovery at the gas dock

Dowry Creek Marina lounge, pool, office and owner's residence
This was a classic 'mom and pop" marina and it was very together.  In fact it was top rated by over 135 cruisers on Active Captain.  The only downside was fixed docks but that was mitigated by a 1 foot tide. Very friendly and for the second time we had a courtesy car (180,000 mile Dodge Durago), which was necessary as the marina is 6 miles from downtown Belhaven (small town with one traffic light).  We also got a great deal on fuel at $3.85 per gallon (we took on 328 gallons) and dockage was a very reasonable $93.00 per night (as compared to Hilton Head and Beaufort at the $200/night mark).

When we checked in, Mary, the owner provided some very important local knowledge regarding the Alligator River Railroad Bridge.  Turns out this swing bridge closes if wind start gusting to 35 knots.  Since there is no place to tie up in the 40 miles between Dowry Creek and the bridge, boaters have had to turn around and return to Dowry Creek (or an 80 mile round trip - read expensive $280 for 70 gallons at $4/gal).

We looked at the forecast Saturday morning and it called for northeast winds 20 to 30 with 35 knot gusts and heavy rain. We called the bridge and they said it was very likely that they would have to close.  We decided to stay put.   The forecast was dead on.  It blew 20 to 25 where we were with a few gusts to 30 and we were relatively protected.  The Alligator River bridge is close to Albermale Sound and the outer banks.  Winds their were much higher.  I'll bet it closed.

Saturday was a wet and windy day.  I'll let the photos tell the story.

We are at the center of the slow moving rain

Looking to port

looking to starboard (windward side)

Returning from a potty break with full rain gear (jacket, pants and hat)
On Friday night after dinner we discovered a new restaurant called Spoon River and decided to go there for dinner if we were pinned down by weather.  Saturday's dinner was spot on.  This was a gourmet restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  Belhaven population is 1,639 with an average household income of $17,434 as compared to NC's $44,000 average). Speaks to the old cliche "if you build it they will come."  Well the owners build it 16 months ago and they're making it.  Trip Advisor gives it 5 stars and so did we.

Spoon River - 5 star restaurant

You pick out your wine at their well stocked wine shop and they open it at the table

Tasteful decor and a full house on Saturday night
The weather forecast for Sunday is even worse than Saturday especially as you get closer to the Outer Banks.  NE winds 25 to 35 KT with gusts up to 40.  Seas 9 to 12 feet on the open waters.  Odds are the swing bridge will close.  We plan to stay put, catch up with maintenance and generally enjoy a quite day.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

Written by Les.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Long Range Cruise - 212 NM Charleston, SC to Beaufort, NC

Reader Notes:  Rainy days are great for catching up, which I have. HURRAH!!!
  1. This is the third article published today.  Be sure to read the other two; "A Friend Passes - Ronald D. Markovits" and "Good Friend & A Little Nostalgia - Hilton Head to Charleston, SC"
  2. This article is a little long and a bit technical.  Hope you enjoy it.
We arrived in Charleston Saturday after a 10 hour 84 mile offshore run from Hilton Head and were looking forward to a few days in this exciting city with our friends Darrel and Sue who planned to arrive on Monday.  We’ve visited Charleston a number of times, once by car circa 2006, on the Great Loop  in April 2010 and most recently while attending the 2013 Outer Reef Rendezvous (June in Mount Pleasant).

However, we were not entirely looking forward to the journey from Charleston to Norfolk, which we planned to do on the ICW.  So we went back and reread our blog and we were reminded of the ICW challenges of tricky navigation, skinny water, currents and no wake zones.  Hmm.  We wondered if there was a reasonable offshore alternative.

Note: Charleston is a great place but at this time of the year it is full of bugs called no see-ums.

Explanatory Note:  Cruising like life is full of trade-offs.  Traverse the ICW and you cruise on calm waters with constantly changing scenery.  But you trade that for tricky navigation, skinny water, currents, no wake zones and the need to pay constant attention to tides (especially now that we draw another foot of water - 5 feet on the 63 versus 4 on the 48).  Operate on the ocean and you get direct routes with deep water.  But there are trade offs.  You have to negotiate inlets, some of which are very tricky (read as dangerous), add miles getting in and out of the inlets, add distance as the inlets are relatively few and far between and finally, and most critical, you have to deal with weather, wind and waves. 

Readers will recall that we departed St Simon Island for Hilton Head on calm waters and then after a two day stay departed Hilton Head for Charleston on the same weather window.  We checked the weather on Saturday night to see if our weather window was still “open.”  It was. 

According to Weather Underground, seas on Sunday were forecasted as 2 to 3 feet building to 3 to 4 feet on Monday on mild southeasterly winds (5 kts building to 15 kts ) and then increasing steadily to 5 to 7 feet as  winds picked up  15 to 25 as a cold front approached from the west.   My take, there was 36 to 48 hours remaining on the current weather window.

Explanatory Note: Heading north east along the shore with a southeast wind is a favorable condition for the 63.  Waves were forecasted to be on our beam which is optimum for the hydraulic stabilizers.  I’ve had Guided Discovery out on a 6 foot beam sea and she rode just fine.  Stabilizers are effective with seas from about 30 degrees to 150 degrees on the beam.  Following seas are OK too.  The most difficult point of “sail” is a head sea where the boat wants to pitch.  Stabilizers control roll.  They are and less effective with pitch and yaw.

The next question was where to go.  Below are the cities we visited on Great Loop between Charleston and Beaufort, NC with the miles for each leg.  The trip is 235 nautical miles with four stops.  I calculated the offshore run from Charleston to Beaufort and determined 212 miles including the inlets at both ends.  The difference is 23 miles which at 8 knots represents three hours and 18 gallons of fuel.

Myrtle Beach,SC
Myrtle Beach,SC
Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach
Beaufort, NC

Summary: We had a solid 24 hour weather window with an acceptable 24 hour cushion.  We could save both travel days, some long some short, and distance (fuel).  We could get within 180 nautical miles of Norfolk where we will meet Dick Singer and Phil Fuoco for the 500 mile offshore run to the Cape Cod Canal.   We could be in a charming city (Beaufort) with a downtown dock and we could get out of Charleston’s no see-ums (bugs that have been driving Diana crazy and a long walk to town from the marina). If we left at 10:00 AM we would get into Beaufort around 11:00 AM (assuming 8.4 knots at 1400 RPM). Tradeoff: 25 hours on the water with an overnight.  Concern: Kodi has never eliminated on the boat.

Night crossings have historically not been our thing.  In fact Diana and I have only made one, a five hour run from Chicago IL to Southhaven MI on the 44 Sundancer (at 20 knots) in circa 2002.  I made one without Diana from Mystic to Branford CT on October 10, 2011 to move the boat closer to Yale New Haven Hospital after Diana’s knee injury (that ended our cruising for 8 months).  That run involved a tricky night approach to an unfamiliar harbor.

Decision: Go!  We could make the 25 hour run and arrive at Beaufort in daylight.

We moved the boat from our slip to the gas dock, which proved to be tricky maneuver as we were against a wall with very little space to turn.  Thanks to powerful thrusters I was able to extricate us but it was definitely another learning experience. 

Diana gave Kodi a walk while I fueled the boat.  We took on 460 gallons at $4.05 per gallons, the lowest we paid to date.  While on the walk Diana picked up some stones where Kodi had urinated in the hopes that it would encourage her do so underway.

We departed at 10:28 AM and headed down the channel past Fort Sumpter on an outbound tide.  Good news: The 2.5 knot outbound current raised our speed to 11.0 knots  Bad news: The outbound current combined with the 10 knot easterly wind produced 4 to 5 foot standing waves in the channel.  Guided Discovery pitched a bit, which scared the Furry Kid.  We passed the 900 foot Maersk Pittsburgh a large container ship in the channel.  She threw a big wake (6 to 7 feet) but the stabilizers handled it.

We pass the 900 foot Maersk Pittsburgh 
At 11:18 AM we turned north and quickly were into the promised two foot seas, which were spaced 7 to 9 seconds apart.  From there to the outer channel marker at the Beaufort Inlet, which we made at 10:25 AM on Monday, we headed northeast along the coast making only three minor course changes.

Our work area for the trip north
Early afternoon.  The left screen shows we're way south of Bald Head Island.  The right screen is radar
Nautical twilight.  The left screen shows us at Bald Head Island.  The right screen is monitoring weather
Running in the dark.  Radar and AIS are our eyes

Just before sunrise.  The left screen shows us 38.8 NM south of the Beaufort Inlet marker
Red in the morning, sailor take warning - This ultimately proves to be true
Sunrise (those are hard to see 4 to 5 foot swells)
What's it like to run for 212 miles over 25 hours.  The answer is easy when you do it in a 63 foot trawler equipped with good electronics, oversized stabilizers and relatively calm waters.  While you are aware of the seas, the boats roll is negligible even when we encountered 5 foot swells on Monday morning.  We operated from the pilothouse for 95% of the trip; both because of the temperature and the better working environment.  The pilothouse is laid out so that everything I need is close at hand.

During the evening Diana took the helm to let me catch some sleep.  I probably slept for 3 and a half hours and was very comfortable sleeping on the pilothouse settee.  

I kept a log recording data so that I might be helpful.  The data included:
  • Time
  • Position
  • Course
  • Speed
  • Wave height
  • Distance to next waypoint
  • Distance traveled
  • Wind direction and speed
  • Barometer reading and direction (rising, steady, falling)
  • Average speed
Particularly important on this run was wind direction, wind speed, barometer and wave heights.  Remember, we made this journey on the basis that we had a 24 hour weather window with a 24 hour cushion.  Would the weather forecast prove to be correct and did we make a good decision?  Winds started out NE at 5 knots and gradually backed around to ENE, E, ESE and SE while we were heading northeast on the open water.  The wind speed increased over time reaching a high of SE at 14 knots just after midnight.  Then they started decreasing in velocity.  This was a good sign.  The barometer started out at 30.20 inches and began falling at 2:45 PM.  It gradually fell to 30.12 inches suggesting the approach of the predicted low and a cold front.  Waves heights started out at 2 to 3 feet and rose gradually to 3 to 4 feet (with an occasional 5 footer). All of this data suggested that the forecast was behaving as predicted and that we had made a good "go" decision.

Explanatory Note: I've always been interested in weather since my days as a private pilot (1972 to 1983 - 1,300 hours including 300 plus of actual instrument time).  As a cruiser since 1999, I've continued to pay close attention to weather.  However, weather is somewhat transactional  for the type of cruising we have done up until today.  By transactional I mean you look at the current conditions and forecast and decide if you have enough good weather for the distance to be covered.  Rarely did we run more than ten hours. Cruising overnight (and for longer as we plan to do from Norfolk to the Cape Cod Canal) one needs to be more strategic as weather and forecasts can change.  Do I have enough good weather for the trip and a bit more for a margin of error?  The longer the trip the greater the margin.  Keeping track of weather trends while underway serves two purposes.  One, to make tactical decisions to deal with changes and two, to improve one's judgment over time on the go/no go decision.

I also made engine room visits every three or four hours (wearing earmuffs made by Remington) to check for leaks and shoot temperature readings with a hand held pyrometer.

Explanatory Note: Handheld Infrared Thermometers are used to safely measure surface temperatures without making physical contact. Infrared thermometers measure the temperature from a distance by detecting the amount of thermal electromagnetic radiation emitted by an object.

Running at night.  Radar and AIS serves as our eyes during the hours of darkness.  Radar allows us to see other boats, land and navigation aids in relation to our course.  AIS allows us to see other vessels that have the AIS (transponder) capability.  This is particularly useful when encountering ships, which ALWAYS have AIS.  AIS targets show up on the chartplotter as directional arrows.  Green: No threat.  Red: Watch out.

Explanatory Note: Heretofore I have only used radar in low visibility conditions.  Rarely did I have it running when cruising along the Chicago lakefront and often wondered why people turned it on.  On weekends there are so many targets that you would be hard pressed to use it intelligently.  I just think people were showing off.  Better to look out the window.  As a result, my radar knowledge was very basic. Necessity is the mother of invention.  Since getting the 63 I have been motivated to better understand radar and Garmin has made it easy by producing a very intuitive interface. I now can track targets, adjust the return for conditions and set up alarms.

Lowe left: Radar showing navigational aids for an inlet
Upper right: A target being tracked

AIS data shows vessel name, size, heading, speed and proximity
We arrived in Beaufort at 11:50 AM and tied up a Beaufort Dock, a marina that sits of their main downtown business street.

View of downtown Beaufort as we arrive

Guided Discovery at Beaufort docks
One concern: Kodi did not eliminate during the entire 25 hours despite our efforts and encouragement.  Kodi as you know is highly trained.  She is so incredibly housebroken.  We need to work on this.

One negative., a wonderful website for cruisers that provides data on marinas, anchorages, hazards and local knowledge, that is constantly updated by cruisers like us, showed the marina's transient rate as $2.50 per foot ($158 per night).  A bit expensive but OK it's close to town.  When I got there the dockmaster told me the rate was $2.95 per foot ($186 per night).  I mentioned that active captain showed a lower rate and further pointed out that they were less than 20% filled.  I then got a song and dace that I could get a lower rate if I took a slip ($2.75).  I did not have a good feeling about this and plan to write a negative review for active captain.  This marina does not justify $3.00 a foot.  The bathrooms are old and tired and not very clean (not that we need them but many smaller cruisers do).

  • Nautical miles Charleston to Beaufort: 212.5
  • Average speed: 8.4 knots
  • Fuel consumption: 174.7 gallons
  • Fuel efficiency: 1.22 NMPG
  • Distance traveled since Fort Lauderdale: 747.3 NM (859 SM)
And one post script - the weather.  We called it right.  When we awoke Tuesday morning it was raining and windy (15 to 20 knots).  The temperature decreased to 60 degrees by late evening.  At 11:30 PM Tuesday we had the promised frontal passage.  It was accompanied by a wind shift to the north, an immediate 5 degree temperature drop in the first 20 minutes, a fifteen degree drop after 90 minutes and a drop in pressure to 29.89 inches.  The boat took a roll at the dock that was hard enough to cause the door on the Portuguese bridge to slam shut.  (Note: New procedure.  The door will be kept shut as weather approaches or when we are underway).  Seas are now 7 feet or better on the route we traveled yesterday.

Written by Les.

Chicago Friends & A Little Nostalgia - Hilton Head to Charleston, SC

We arrived in Hilton Head at 4:35 PM on Thursday after a lovely 81 mile cruise on flat water from St Simons.  Our cruising partners, Darrell and Sue, had departed St. Simons the day before (Wednesday) to cruise north to Hilton Head via the ICW.  We connected with them on Friday.

Present Moment as she pulls in Harbor Towne Marina, Hilton Head
Present Moment pulling in next to Guided Discovery
Later in the day we were joined for dinner by our friends from Chicago; David, Colleen, Sophocles and Elena.   We enjoyed cocktails on the aft deck, until we were attacked by no-seeums, and then adjourned to Alexanders for a lovely dinner.

David, Colleen, Elena, Sophocles and Darrell
David and Sophocles are very special people for us.  I worked for Sophocles for 7 years as his Vice President of Training and Quality Assurance and later for David as Senior Vice President Worldwide Performance Improvement.  I got both of these guys into large boats.  David has a 55 Sea Ray Sundancer. Sophocles has a 510 Sundancer.  We cruised extensively with Sophocles last summer.

The next day (Saturday) we left for Charleston.

Now to the cruise.  There are two ways to get from Hilton Head to Charleston, the ICW or open water along the shoreline.  And there are two way to get to the open water; backtrack southeast along the Calibogie Sound to Tybee Roads (the main channel to Savannah) or go north on the ICW to Port Royal Sound and then out to the ocean.  It turned out that going backwards was 6 miles shorter than heading north on the ICW.  At trawler speeds of 8.4 knots eliminating 6 nautical miles saves almost 45 minutes.

Fort Sumpter

Charleston Battery Park
We departed at 6:59 AM, joined Tybee Roads at 7:36 and turned north onto the ocean at 8:15.  The winds were out of the south at less than 10 knots and the seas were flat.  We had a pleasant cruise, most of which was done from the pilothouse as it was just a bit chilly on the flybridge.  We arrived in Charleston at 5:12 PM and docked at the Charleston City Marina.  Our average speed for the 86.4 NM trip was 8.3 knots (or 9.5 MPH).  Fuel burn at 1,400 RPM was 66.9 gallons or 1.3 NMPG.  1,400 RPM is turning out to be Guided Discovery's optimum cruising speed.

1964 Whiticar 63 Motoryacht
A bit of nostalgia:

The name of the boat in the above photo is Elegante.  She is a 63 foot flush deck motoryacht built in 1964. She brings back memories.  Check out the video for a look at luxury in the 60s.

In the summer of 1961 I worked on a 65 foot Wheeler that looked amazingly close in appearance to the Whiticar.  She was as I remember a 1959 model.  The yacht was owned by Bobby Cohen, President of the Randolph Manufacturing Company.  His Brockton Massachusetts based company manufactured the Randy Boatshoe, which at the time competed with the Sperry Topsider.  The yacht, which was named The Randy Boatshoe, was captained by Lester Glawson.  I was the first mate (at age 18).  She was berthed at the Boston Harbor Marina and spent most of her time in Hull Massachusetts (where I spent my summers).  Most of our cruising involved entertaining shoe buyers.

As the summer came to a close they offered me a full time job as first mate and the opportunity to take the boat south to Florida for the winter.  Very tempting to an 18 year old who was not at that moment bound for college.  I had a heart to heart with my dad who counseled me to go back to school.  They say missing a bus can change your life.  Well, that "bus" sailed for Florida without me and I venture that that single decision could have changed the trajectory of my life or, said another way, I would not be heading from Florida back to Massachusetts in a 2014 63 Outer reef if I had taken the "berth."

Photo by Billy Black
Written by Les

A Friend Passes - Ronald D. Markovits

Yesterday, our friend, Linda Markovits informed us that her husband, Ron, had died on Tuesday, April 7.  I had spoken very briefly with Ron the previous Saturday, learned that he was in the hospital and not feeling well.  He promised to call later.  He sounded terrible.  He never returned my call.

I did not expect him to die so quickly but then I’m not entirely surprised.  I had spoken to Ron about a year ago and learned that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  He said the doctor had given him a prognosis of 6 months but had said that with aggressive chemotherapy that his life might be extended to 6 years or more.   Ron embraced the chemo protocol and moved forward.

Ron and I go back many years and share some very important statistics.  We were both born in 1943, both worked for the Warranty Group, both retired after 38 years, both retired on the same day (March 31, 2010) and shared a retirement party (one of the very few ever thrown by our company).  Ron also became a boater for a brief period but his first love, after Linda of course, was golf.

Although we both worked for the same company at the end of our careers we came together from very different paths. Ron joined Combined Insurance in 1972.  I joined Ryan Insurance Group in 1972.  Our paths crossed soon after Combined acquired Ryan in an upstream merger where Pat Ryan, the CEO of the acquired company, became the CEO of the merged entity.  That Ryan became the CEO is an important fact as it caused our paths to cross about a year later.

Pat Ryan tasked me with two major training program development projects at Combined over a three year period.   And that’s how I met Ron.  He was in charge of compliance and assigned another attorney, Joe Fagan, to review my training programs.   The culture of Ryan, a very Theory Y company was different than that of Theory X Combined.  Ryan wanted to bring a Theory Y approach (Guided Discovery) to Combined’s training with the goal of increasing their training effectiveness.  Needless to say there was a clash of cultures but we worked it out and I came to greatly respect both Ron and Joe.

Fast forward a bunch of years and Ron moves into the extended warranty business and eventually becomes the Chief Legal Officer for the Warranty Group.  Starting around 2000 I became Vice President of Training and Quality Assurance for our administrative subsidiary and held that position until 2007 when I was promoted to Senior Vice President World Wide Performance Improvement for the corporation as a whole.  From 2000 to our retirement Ron and I worked very closely on training, quality assurance, complaint resolution and legal issues. 

Ron became my counselor on legal matters along with confidant and adviser, often behind the scenes.  Ron helped me tackle several ethical issues and with his help I was able to change what I will politely describe as consumer unfriendly practices.  Together we won some big battles and over time became good friends.

Lester, Diana, Linda and Ron 2010 at the Miami Boat Show (55 Fleming in the background)
In March of 2010, Ron helped me with my attempt to purchase the 2010 63 Outer Reef Cockpit Motor Yacht that was in Seattle.  He reviewed the documents and helped me with the negotiation strategy.  I got cold feet and the last minute but that’s another story.  Ron was an avid follower of this blog and often talked with me about our adventures.

We met for lunch at Savory Street in late December while Diana and I were in Sarasota waiting for delivery of the new 63.  Ron looked good, had gained back most of his weight and was hopeful about the future.  We tried to meet once more before I left for Fort Lauderdale but our schedules didn't coincide.

Ron’s passing at 71 is particularly poignant for me as we shared so much in common.  My dad, Isadore Henry (Jack) Shapiro, also died at 71 from a heart attack while playing tennis.  As I write this remembrance, Diana, Kodi and I are 40 miles off the coast of North Carolina heading north to Beaufort full of life and expectation of many more wonderful years.

Truly, 71 is too young.  I will miss my friend.

Written by Les

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hello South Carolina - St Simons to Hilton Head

We waited a day at for calm seas and the wait was worth the while.  The run from St Simons to Harbor Town Marina on Hilton Head was spectacular.  We started the day with clear skies and light winds and an absolutely calm ocean.

Electronics set up for departure
We departed at 6:58 AM and were assisted on the dock by Ray and Susan Cope (Copeing, 2008 Outer Reef 65 - The first 65).  Our easy departure proved to be a harbinger of the day to come.

Sunrise over St Simons Island
This cruise was filled with several firsts.  First and foremost, this was Diana's and Kodi's first cruise on the North Atlantic and it proved to be a great introduction to the 63's capabilities.  The day started out on flat water and then progressed to two footers as the winds freshened in the afternoon.  Diana commented to Elena Karapas during a phone call that her ice tea was not moving despite the waves and the swells.

Another first for me was using the Garmin system to plan and follow a route. Kudos to Garmin for building a very user friendly system.  I was able to layout the route the day before, including making adjustments to the plotted course, save it and then go 81 nautical miles from St Simons to Harbor Town without touching the helm. I was able to make a mid-course route change that knocked at least 30 minutes off the trip without consulting the manual - UNBELIEVABLE.  Garmin took a page from the Steve Jobs Apple playbook.

Yet another first was our docking at Harbor Town.  I did a stern in starboard tie from the flybridge helm (i.e., without using the remote control) assisted by Diana who very expertly communicated distances from the dock and obstacles as I backed into the slip.  The Loopers on the boat next door commented that Diana was en expert in helping with the docking maneuver.  It's amazing how its all coming together for us.

Speaking of electronics, this was the first time I actually got to use the entire system.  The following is the information that I had available as we cruised to Hilton Head:
  • Position on the chartplotter with a radar overlay on the port multifunction screen
  • Radar display
  • Weather
  • Sonar
  • Video of the engine room
  • Speed over Ground
  • Course
  • Depth
  • Position in latitude and longitude
  • Wind speed (true)
  • Wind direction (true)
  • Air temperature
  • Barometric pressure and whether it was rising or falling)
  • Autopilot cross track error
  • Rudder position
  • Average speed
  • Odometer mileage
  • Visual picture of of the autopilot's track
  • Stabilizer activity
  • VHF on channel 16
  • VHF on channel 72
  • Engine data including temperature, oil pressure, voltage, fuel consumption, etc.
Today's route took us south and east along St Simon Sound and then northeast when we cleared the inlet an hour later at 7:58 AM.  The autopilot guided us north until we connected with Tybee Roads at 3:24 PM, the channel leading to the Savannah River.

Outbound freighter exiting Tybee Roads as we head inbound
At 2:30 PM I recorded that the winds had freshened to 13 knots out of the southeast and that we were now experiencing a few whitecaps.

At 3:45 PM we turned north from Tybee Roads at marker G15 and headed north in Calibogie Sound,  The depth went from 45 ft to 20 ft and finally down to 13 ft as we traversed a tricky sound with some very dangerous shoals and a submerged breakwater.

We finally arrived at the entrance to Harbor town at 4:25 PM.

Guided Discovery arriving at the Harbor Town Marina
After shutting down and plugging in I proceeded to wash the boat.  Washing the 63 is very easy for two reasons.  The boat itself has clean surfaces that are easy to wash and I have washing equipment (pails, wash mitts, brushes and soap) on both decks so there no "moving stuff around."  While the operation is efficient the process takes almost three hours.  This is a big boat.

A lovely sunset and view of the Harbot town lighthouse (viewed from the pilothouse)
Except for the bugs (no see-ums) that attacked Diana and I at sunset, the day was totally perfect. Finally, we are getting the pay-off from the rather stressful commissioning and outfitting process.  It really has all come together.

a very clean Guided Discovery at night
Basic Statistics:
  • 80.5 nautical miles traveled today
  • 64.67 gallons used
  • 1.24 MPG
  • Total time enroute: 9 hours and 33 minutes
  • 449 NM since leaving Fort Lauderdale
Written by Les.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Short Time in Georgia - Fernandina Beach, FL to Hilton Head, SC

The "crews" of Guided Discovery and Present Moment took a well deserved day off on Monday (April 7). Justification, as if we need one, was the fact that we had been traveling for five days and the weather.  The storm that had been to our north on Sunday was replaced by a cold front to our west stretching north to south and moving to the east.  Thunderstorms were predicted for Monday afternoon and most of Tuesday.

Sue timed our Tuesday departure for 10:30 AM so that we would be able to traverse the shallow ICW channel west of Jeckel Island at high tide.  This strategy makes great sense since both of our vessels draw five (5) feet of water.

Except for the challenge of getting Present Moment away from the Fernandina dock, the 36 nautical mile trip was a piece of cake.  After getting of the docks at 10:56 AM we headed north on the ICW.  At 2:25 PM we were at the southwest corner of Jeckel Island's shallow waters and 33 minutes later (2:58 PM) entered St Simon Sound's deeper waters.  We arrived at Morningstar Marina at 3:35 PM.  Fuel burn was 26.1 gallons for an efficiency of 1.38 NMPG.

The tricky part of the trip was Present Moment's departure from Fernandina Beach.

Background: Present Moment is a 50 ft single screw Ocean Alexander Classico trawler equipped with an electric bow thruster.  Maneuverability is not one of her strong suits.  Two points are critical.  A single engine boat is considerably less maneuverable than a twin screw.  Where as a twin screw can turn in her own length by putting one engine in forward and one in reverse, a single screw cannot do this.  Further, electric bow thrusters do not have the torque or the horsepower of hydraulic thrusters.

Present Moment was docked port side to and facing north on the inside of Fernandina's long face dock.  In order to depart, she had to turn 180 degrees.  At 10:30 AM the wind was blowing from the southwest at 20 knots.  Fortunately Sue had timed their departure at slack tide so as not to add current to the departure challenge.  However, slack tide at this time was low tide (read as skinny water) which meant she had to stay within the fairway.

Darrel chatting with the marina dock hand about their departure strategy
In a nut shell, Present Moment wanted to allow the wind to swing the stern into the fairway while the dock hand held onto the bow line.  Essentially the wind blows the stern into the fairway while the bow remains stationary.  With a little help from the bow thruster the bow is kicked around to the south while the stern continues to turn north.  This maneuver allowed the boat to turn in her own length.

The stern is coming around while the dock hand re positions the bow line to facilitate the bow to face north

Present Moments now facing south and ready to go
Once she was turned around the boat's big rudder permits excellent control as the boat heads forward.  By 10:56 they were off and away.  Guided Discovery with its powerful hydraulic bow and stern thrusters just thrusted away from the dock and headed north.

Upon arrival at the Morningstar Marina we discovered two Outer Reefs, a 65 owned by Ray Cope and an 80 owned by Bo Leonard.  This is unusual.  There are no more than 40 Outer Reefs operating in the US so three at one marina is a bit of an event.

Diana and Ray Cope
Outer Reef 80
Ray joined us for cocktails on Present Moment and was shortly joined by his wife Sue.  Ray provided some important local knowledge that helped me plan our strategy for the move north.

Background: The run from St Simons to Savannah is a challenge due to its 80 NM length and two shallow water passages (Mud River and Hell's Gate) that are best run at close to high tide.  Our original plan was to accompany Present Moment 25 NM to an anchorage on Tea Kettle Creek and then go 54 NM the next day to Thunderbolt and the Isle of Hope Marina just south and east of Savannah.  Diana's was not thrilled by an overnight anchorage and Kodi has not been trained to relieve herself on the boat.  We considered running outside from St Simons to Savannah but that trip was 92 NM and required a 10 NM run up the Savanna River that we would have to retrace the following day.  Our next destination, Hilton Head, was another 24 NMs.

Looking at the chart over cocktails it occurred to me that rather than run up the Savannah River to downtown Savannah and spend $200 a night for premium dock space and then have to retrace our steps the next day that it would be more efficient to run outside directly to Hilton Head.  Enter Ray Cope.

As a result of Ray's insight we are going to wait one day for the ocean to lay down and then make an 83 NM coastal run from St Simons to Hilton Head.  This trip eliminates and anchorage and shaves about 30 NM off the trip (read as a $100 + savings on fuel).

After dinner, I adjourned to Guided Discovery, fired up the Garmin multifunction screens and charted a route to Hilton Head.  The Garmin 7215 is a pleasure to use.  It is both intuitive and user friendly.  I was able to chart and save the route with only one reference to the owner's manual.  Kudos to Garmin.

All in all a very good day!!!

Written by Les.