Off we go into the wild blue yonder, Part II
Greetings, Flying Pig enthusiasts...
When we left you, we were about to head
out into blue water
for a trip north...
All systems were go, and our trusty Perkins
was running sweet...
Our trip to Ft. Pierce, to stage for our exit, was uneventful, other than the 4 hours of engine
Forgive me, Neptune; it’s been nearly a year since our last voyage, our fast trip back to prepare for Dorian...
On July 29th, we topped up fuel
and headed south from Vero Beach at 2:45 PM. Aside from the almost-half-hour wait for the next lift
bridge opening, it was delightful to be under way again. Our 2-weeks ago bottom cleaning
left tiny barnacles
on the waterline, and on our prop. With any luck, our 8-year-old ablative Sherwin Williams bottom paint
would shed that minor nuisance as we went. We anchored off the beach in the inlets at 5:45, talked with our weather
forecaster, Chris Parker, at 6, had dinner, and headed off to bed
We'd been in twice-daily communication with Chris Parker, who was keeping us abreast of the 'potential tropical cyclone ("hurricane") #9' brewing in the Caribbean
, so were aware of the possibility that we'd have to head
inland along our way. Otherwise, we expected to get into the Gulf Stream
, for its added speed north.
At 0820, following our morning weather
update, we headed out, and set our course for 045 degrees, aiming to intersect the Gulf Stream
without wasting time heading straight out. In no-wind conditions, we motored at 2500 rpm
, previously unattainable without overheating
, but due to our diligence in maintaining the cooling
system, all was well. However, we altered course slightly, to 065 degrees, making 5.7 knots in calm seas.
2PM saw us intersect the Gulf Stream at 28N°79°57'W (for the rest of this log, it will appear like 28/79-57 for convenience) as our speed picked up to 9.5 knots in rolly conditions. Due to our motoring, the alternator
on Perky had our batteries
Hours later, we saw some wind
ripples. At 9PM, with 6 knots apparent wind
at 090 port, we raised the main and rolled out the genoa
, still motoring. That lead to a heading/travel of 002N, at 29-05/79-56, through sargassum fields in rock-and-roll conditions. My attempts at HF (ham) email communications
resulted in a single
station of all that I tried connecting, and at that, it would not pull or send mail. Hmmm.
With the rolly conditions and very light winds, our wind indicator was varying from 90 to 180 - abeam to astern - and only 4 knots of wind, by 11:30 PM. However, we were making 9.9 knots at due north - 000 degrees - of travel. If you're a whiz at math, you can figure out that there was actually more wind, but we were moving fairly quickly, so the actual breeze made for some wavelets and roll...
Due to the instability of the wind, we rolled in the genoa
as it would not stay full in the fluky air. By 1AM, we were able to let out the main as our wind picked up to 5-8 knots at 120 on our port. 29-45/79-54 found us making 10 knots, still motorsailing in following seas. I took a couple hour nap as Lydia watched our helm
under our trusty autopilot
We'd been given markers for the center (fastest lift) of the Gulf Stream (GS), so at 0330, I headed 009 COG (course over ground) as the wind picked up to 7-10 at 150-180 apparent, still on port. Now that we were out of the hot water
and air of the Vero Beach Marina, our refrigeration
was a lot happier!
6AM saw the wind up a bit, now showing 10-15, still on port at 120-150 apparent, allowing us 10-11 knots SOG (speed over ground) at 007 COG by the time we reached 30-37/79-45, about 90 miles offshore
from St. Marys GA. Seas continued to be a bit rolly, and with our forward motion masking the true conditions (wind from the side or rear was higher, as our forward speed deducted from the true wind) in the still-benign 2-3' seas made the true wind more like 20-25 from the southwest. We'll have made over 200 miles as the crow flies - more in actual travel, due to the path not being straight line - in our first 24 hours. That is a huge achievement in sailboating - but, of course, we had help from the Gulf Stream. Still, it was marvelous to see that number when I put our cursor on the Ft. Pierce Entrance, on our chart display...
July 31st's communication with our weather guru had us diverting to the Chesapeake, as Isaias had developed into a major storm and was heading our way; he felt we would be well served by getting as far north in the Chesapeake as possible, so we set a course for Cape Hatteras, which we'd have to round to get to the mouth of the bay. Wind continued to be uncooperative, at 6-8 knots apparent, from directly behind us, so we prevented (secured the boom from jibing) at 2:30PM. With the GS having turned to follow the coastline, we were now 045 COG, making 10-11 knots, still motorsailing.
31-44/77-16 found us with stern rollers, giving us lifts as they passed under us, but still some rock-and-roll. 8PM saw us about 80 miles off Charleston SC, and we'd migrated from the GS center track we were exploiting so we headed back on course.
However, all that engine
running had the engine room cooking
so our refrigeration
was struggling, running full bore, all the time, and not keeping up. Temperatures rose into where most folks keep their refrigerators on land but we're spoiled - we keep ours between 32-34 degrees, the better to have cold drinks and extended time before food
went 'off' (a standing joke, when someone - as we're leaving - says, "So, you're off?" "No, but I'm past my sell-by date!"). Later, I'd take my infrared thermometer and measure 125F in the engine room, where our refrigeration's cooling
Our evening weather forecast
discussion had us at 32-12/78-02, with maybe better news; we might be able to go all the way, after all. We set our course for 077 to find the center of the GS. However, all that engine running was making the ER so hot that cold water (which had pipes in the ER) came out of the faucet nearly hot!
August 1 came with a surprise at 0055. We ran out of fuel
after 39 hours of operation. So, all that lovely RPM
came at a cost of eating fuel at a great rate - 2 or more gallons per hour. Fortunately, our fueling had included 4 jerry cans of 5 gallons each. In rolling seas, we carefully decanted those into our fuel tank
, completing a precarious task at 3AM.
The nature of a diesel
engine is that if it runs out of fuel, the pressure lines to the injectors have to be purged of air - bleeding them - before it will restart.
That's a nuisance, but not a big deal. I have a remote
starter (in order to make the engine turn over as I sit in front of it, not requiring someone else to push the starter button at the helm) and bleeding is really just a matter of loosening the nuts on the fuel connections at the injectors and cranking until fuel comes out at those connections. When they do, I tighten the nuts again and push the starter button. Normally, it will then start. The first attempt failed due to insufficient fuel (displacing the air which had entered the system when there was no fuel to be had), so I did it again. Bleeding was successfully accomplished in short order but we now were placed on notice that we needed to come in for fuel. By 4AM, we were again under way.
Our first offshore
trip, in 2008, had us dead-sticking into Portland
ME - in broad daylight, in good sailing conditions, and no rush. Better yet, a friend met us - literally, as we found out, not merely after we’d arrived, coming out in his sailboat, having followed our SPOT locator track as we approached - and guided us to an anchorage.
However at this point we were heading for Beaufort
NC, in the dark, in a tricky entrance; we felt blessed and smart that we'd provided for more fuel. Getting there involved a turn out of the GS, and an increase in our apparent wind, as well as a change in direction. Swapping sides with the main, we again prevented it on starboard with apparent wind at 13-20 knots at 150 on port. With our new COG at 034, we headed for the Beaufort
32-48/76-57 found us at 8 knots SOG, out of the GS. Our weather guy wanted to know if we could make it to Norfolk by motoring hard - but we'd proven that our now-minimal fuel would not allow for that. Seas were making for lots of rolling, but there were no breaking waves, and the motion was easy.
0515 had the water lighting
up with phosphorescence as our 15 knots of apparent wind, still on port at ~150 degrees (nearly astern, and with the rolling, frequently seeing a bounce of the wind indicator showing that the wind moved to starboard - which is why to prevent the main, so it doesn't crash-jibe back to the other side!). We were making 6-8 knots with our engine ticking over at 1500 RPM, and we would arrive at Beaufort, NC, well after dark.
Making any port in the dark is an interesting exercise, especially if you've not done it often, before, and in the daylight so you knew what you were seeing. So, as we had plenty of time, we got busy looking at our charts
for where we'd go for fuel, and to anchor
Our last time in the area had been on our maiden voyage (well, if you discount that first brief trip which ended up in a wreck - the story of which is way back at the beginning of my logs
in 2007), and we'd found no issues to our entrance to either the cove behind Shackleford Island or in front of Beaufort. However, it all looked very skinny (not quite enough depth
for our 7' draft), so we were a bit nervous. This would occupy our waiting times as we proceeded toward Cape Hatteras.
32-55/76-52 was still 105 miles from Cape Lookout, which we'd have to round before heading north to the Chesapeake. We mulled the possibility of having enough time before the storm's arrival, knowing that with our limited fuel, we'd have the Beaufort entrance wanting us to have our engine running if we didn't. Chris Parker was very much in favor of our heading as far north as possible into the Chesapeake Bay
, but to make it very far at all would require hard motorsailing in light apparent winds (recall that if the wind is behind you, the apparent wind is lower - and provides less forward push - than is the true wind).
As Beaufort was only 63 miles from our position at noon, we elected to head there for fuel and anchorages
possible before fueling and heading to a secure spot. Our wind was now at 12-15 knots, still relatively astern at 100-120 on port. The continued winds now made seas 5-7 feet with 7' swells moving under us. Our sails
steadied us, and despite the swells, our 7 knots SOG was reasonably comfortable.
Our estimated time of arrival at the entrance to Beaufort's inlet - a very long, with flashing markers, straight shot - was 10PM. We felt that anchoring
behind Shackleford Island, with its protection from the 7' seas, could be done. We resolved to call TowBoatUS as we approached, for advice...
Wind was dying as we approached, so after our 6PM conference with Chris (who still really wanted us to go around Cape Hatteras and head north into the Chesapeake Bay), we lowered the main sail and rolled up the genoa. The rolling seas made properly stowing the main impossible, so I did the best we could with the help of the lazy-jack equivalent of our Mack Pack cover, and we motored onward.
Our first day was 210 miles. By the time we reached the inlet, it would have been 60 hours from our departure and right at 500 sea miles, a super voyage, averaging over the 200 miles per day 'gold standard' among sailors. That we had the GS and, for the first day and a half, Perky helping was merely a footnote to our enthusiasm for our success.
8:45PM found us at 34-32/76-42, motoring at 6 knots SOG (aided by the following wind), at 016 COG. By 10PM, we were at the entrance to the long channel and its flashing markers. As it's not a Class A (all weather, all ships) inlet, the markers were not as prominent, so finding the flashing lights required a full-time attention on top, as Lydia did an instrument approach equivalent, adjusting the direction of the boat
while looking at HER charts
, and I looked at MY charts as well as searched for the next pair of red and green lights.
All that busy-ness got a rejection from the admiral to my suggestion that we call TowBoatUS for guidance about the conflicting information about the water outside the channel, behind Shackleford Island. So, trusting her charts, a hard right turn into the supposedly deep water behind the island resulted in an immediate bump in the sand.
My attempts to turn us to port, and to motor
off the sand, were stymied, due to the autopilot
demanding to continue straight ahead. Thus, my application of full power and not turning, after all, drove us further onto the sand.
The seas bounced us a bit, and as the wave receded, pulled us over on our starboard side, opening the cockpit
to the boarding waves. Wave after monstrous wave washed over us. The engine complained of overheat so I pulled it back to idle, and braced against the onslaught of the water. The force of the waves pushed us over on the port side, and the receding wave, as the surf gathered for another blast, pulled us back onto our starboard side.
The volume of water did not escape through the 4 scuppers in time to prevent a great deal of it pouring over the lip in front of the steps below. As seas had been moderate, we had not put the batter boards (wooden barriers to just such water) into the companionway
(the entrance to the cabin
steps), and the force of the waves was sufficient to bathe the computer monitor
showing the charts at the nav station, and to hit the face of the computer built into the bulkhead.
Many other things got the force of those waves, too, but those were incidental to the fact that so much water came below that it flowed, like rapids in a river, over the sole ('floor' to landlubbers), carrying all the items which, due to our violent moves as we went from one side to the other, along with some bouncing on the sand, had been dislodged from their storage
Will this be the end of Flying Pig? Will we spend the night being bashed by wind and waves?
Well, obviously I'm alive, so that's the good news. As to the rest...
Until the next time, Stay Tuned!
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
I expect to pass this way but once; any good therefore that I can do,
or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it
Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
- Etienne Griellet