Monday, May 27, 2013

Making Our Way to Charleston

(Quick note...Of course with all the other repairs we've had done computer died. Had to buy a new one. Oh, and by the way...Windows 8 is a piece of garbage. Its obvious they are trying to move to a cloud format by doing things like scrolly screens and having "apps" instead of programs but it is ponderous in invasive. Hell, even turning a computer off is a pain in the neck.    Sorry. Had to vent.)

Day 1 Cowen Creek

We pulled out of Isle of Hope Marina about 8:15. The conditions were interesting in that while it was very sunny and what you'd expect for Memorial Day weekend, it was on the coolish side. We started out piloting from the flybridge but after awhile we moved to the lower helm. It was funny to see people in their runabouts out on the water all wrapped in towels and what other cover they could find.

It was a very routine day in every respect. We moved out of Georgia just south of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and continued up to our anchorage for the night at Cowen Creek which is just a few miles south of Beaufort. As I mentioned previously we stayed at this anchorage last year and found it to be a good one. We anchored roughly at the same location.

All is well. The generator and charger are behaving and we are expecting a peaceful evening.

Day 2  South Edisto River

We had a bit of an "Oh crap!" moment as we were leaving Cowen Creek. The windlass didn't work. After a short time I located the breaker and it had tripped. Turned out to be no big deal.

Again the cruise was very routine. Both of us were surprised that there wasn't more boat traffic on the water for a Memorial Day weekend. Our anchorage for the night was on the South Edisto River in a wide area just a bit further north of where the ICW leaves the river through a cut. The current was very strong and there wasn't any real wind protection to speak of. But the anchor held very firm and it was non-event. (Btw, it's pronounced EH-dis-to instead of eh-DIS-to. We were corrected by some local boaters over the radio.)

One of my goals has been to see the Milky Way. And that isn't easy when you are surrounded by the large glowing auras of metropolitan cities. They fill the night time sky with too much ambient light. Even seeing a full star-lit sky is difficult. But at this anchorage I was optimistic. I mean to tell you, we were out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I would be able to at least see the vastness of the universe open up above my head, and maybe, just maybe I would get to see the Milky Way. But alas, it turned out to be a full moon so its brightness dominated the sky. To top that, off to the north I could still see the glow rising from Charleston some thirty miles away.

Day 3 Into Charleston

It is 5:02 am on Memorial Day, 2013 and we are already awake doing what we do to blow off time before the sun rises. The night was peaceful with the boat swinging the full 180 degrees back and fourth with the changing tide-driven current on the South Edisto River. When we entered the area and dropped our anchor our bow was pointing roughly southwest with the current through the low tide at 4:30 pm. After a period of slack water the stern of the boat starting swinging around the opposite way until the bow was pointing to the northeast until 10:30 pm. Then it swung back to the southwest. We should start to swing back again shortly. For you mariners I would rate this as a three star anchorage but only with calmish conditions. There is zero wind protection, two knot currents and an eight to ten foot tide swing. But the depth is good and there is plenty of swing room. There were a few crab pot floats but they were easily avoided. But you have to enter
during low tide (plenty of depth to do this) or between the tides. The floats get sucked under the surface at high tide.

Update 3:00 pm, Arrived in Charleston 1:00 pm - The cruise up to Charleston was least until we actually approached Charleston. This being Memorial Day every yahoo from the great state of South Carolina had their boat out on the water and it was mayhem. Big boats, little boats, ski boats, cruisers, dinghies, sailboats, all scurrying about all the way up to and through the beautiful Charleston harbor. For those of you who are not boaters there is a thing called "The Rules of the Road". It is the uniform, codified and Coast Guard certified rules on how boats are suppose to operate on the water. They cover everything from how to read and follow the aids to navigation to how boats are suppose to interact with each other, such as overtaking, passing, and who is the stand-on and give-way vessels. Those last two points are particularly important and their direct land-lubber equivalent would be knowing who has the right of way when driving a car. But if any of the boaters that we encountered today had any idea what these rules were it was a complete surprise to us. Boats were dodging and weaving and generally taking incredible risks. They were maneuvering in totally willy-nilly ways. It was scary. Now most states have a requirement that you take a boater safety course to learn the rules. Some states even require boat operators to have a quasi-license. But when we pulled into our slip at Ashley Marina I asked the dockhand something along the lines of, "Don't people have to take a boater safety course in South Carolina?" He kind of chuckled and said, "No sir. They do not. Can you tell?" Yes we could.

We have a high expectation of Charleston. We passed through here last year and we have been looking forward to our return. We know that One September and Good Karma are here because they are docked a few slips down from us. Sareanna might be here. The dockhand seems to think they left earlier today though. Perhaps Jim's Joy is here too. We knew from our communication with Katherine of Good Karma that they were taking a tour of Charleston this afternoon so we haven't actually talked to anyone yet. We're hoping that we all go out to dinner tonight to see if we can get kicked out of another restaurant.

Just kidding about the last bit. We haven't actually been kicked out of any restaurant...yet.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Everything Appears to Say That It’s Goboat Day!

(There are some pics at the end of this entry)
The last we saw our intrepid travelers we were sitting at Isle of Hope Marina with the full expectation that we would still be here the Tuesday after Memorial Day. But my new buddy Kevin at Performance Power came to the rescue. As we were sitting at the galley table early Thursday the phone rang. It was Kevin calling to say that a technician was on the way to us. This made us extremely happy.

Technician Geoff showed up at 8:00 and got to work. It took  him about an hour to nail down a diagnosis. The generator was putting out the proper volts and amps but the hertz was too high - 66 hertz when it should be at 60. (Listen to me. You’d think I knew what I was talking about, wouldn’t you?) But there was a challenge. Our generator is old so the ability to make adjustments is limited. It did not a voltage regulator having a transformer instead. What he ended up doing was bringing the rpm of the generator down just a hair to form a compromise. The hertz was now down to 61 but the volt output was also down a hair to 116 volts instead of 120. But it worked. The Xantrex charger/inverter now happily starts charging the batteries using the generator. So we are good to go.

As we were paid up until Saturday we decided to spend Friday taking care of more errands we had on land. Unfortunately one of those errands was to buy a new computer for me. When I woke up on Friday morning I sat down at my old computer to drink coffee and type this blog post but I got a big fat nothing from my trusty old Toshiba computer. Nada! It would not turn on. No power. Not even any of the power indicator lights were on. It was dead as a doornail. This meant we had to go to a nearby Best Buy and see if anything could be done with it. There wasn’t . The Geek Squad agent pronounced it dead on arrival. So I now am typing this on a brand new Toshiba computer. There’s always something.

But as I am writing this we are ready to leave Isle of Hope Marina...finally. The weather is spectacular: very sunny, hot, with some light winds from the south. Our destination is Cowen Creek to anchor out for the night some forty-eight miles to the north. On Sunday we will head up to the South Edisto River to anchor out once more. We will then pull into Ashley Marine in Charleston, South Carolina on Memorial Day once again to meet up with Sareanna, One September and Good Karma.
The Honey Fitz. Presidential Yacht used mostly by Kennedy

Getting her a little close there, aren't you bud?

Check out the center shake flavor from Sonic

Isle of Hope at low tide

and at high tide

Monday, May 20, 2013

Georgia on Our Minds – Part 2

Waiting for the Electrician or Somebody Like Him   -   Monday, May 20, 2013
(About the title – Name that reference. You’ll win a cookie.)

Last night (that would be Sunday evening, May 19th) the whole group of us, now joined by gold loopers Jim and Joy of Jim’s Joy (Savannah residents) loaded up into the loaner van and Jim’s truck to head downtown to a wonderful restaurant call “The Old Pink House”. That is after we fixed the door on the van that I somehow cleverly was able to break. Actually it wasn’t that clever. The sliding door was sticky (a fact that is well known) so to get it open you need to have a little oomph. This task fell on me. I guess I applied a bit too much oomph and I managed to break the door handle off of the door. (But I wasn’t alone in my oomph-iness. Kermit did the same thing later when we were leaving the restaurant.) Feeling like a clot I walked into the marina office and told them I broke their van. A dockhand came out and taped it back together. We opened the door from the inside and we loaded up to head downtown.

The Old Pink House is quite a place. It is a genuine old house smack dab in the middle of downtown, alongside of one of the small town squares that Savannah is famous for. And yes, it is painted pink. It is a white table cloth kind of restaurant and we all dressed up for the occasion. I even wore socks! They seated us in a separate room off of the main dining room where our laughter and general loudness wouldn’t disturb the other patrons. (Good thinking on their part.) 

Their specialty is a fried scored flounder and that is what many in our party wanted to have. Of course our very capable server told us that there was no flounder that evening. Wow. You should have heard it. We all let out a hoot that sounded like we were all told our boats had been confiscated by the Coast Guard. The server politely excused herself only to return a few minutes later informing us that there were actually nine flounders left. Yay! Our party immediately took five of them. In sales-speak this is called artificial scarcity, which is sometimes an underhanded ploy but it works every time.
(left) Mike, Judy, (front) Deanne, Dick, (rear) Jim, Joy, Katherine, Kermit, (right) Darrell, Lisa. No, I do not know who is in the painting behind us. It could be Clyde Savannah, Jr. for all I know.
We had a great time! Man, we laughed and laughed in between the moments of awkward silence when we were all chowing down. (I myself did not have the flounder but it sure looked good!) It was a great evening and one that will rank right up there in the top most memorable looper gatherings.

So we wake up Monday morning with our little task lists firmly in our hands. Lisa was in paperwork mode. I was in get-the-generator-working mode. I called a company named Performance Power Systems, Inc. here in Savannah. They are a marine diesel sales and service company and one of only two authorized Onan service providers in town. I talked to their service dispatcher and told him what the deal was with our electrical system and generator. Phil suggested that we get someone like them on board to do a detailed analysis of the generator’s power generation abilities. Phil thinks that there is some kind of faulty something in the something that is causing the power coming from the generator to not be quite good enough. The voltage, hertz and amps are all showing to be correct, but there is some kind of bad juju in the power transmission that prevents the current from being qualified by the charger. Then when the air conditioning is turned on it somehow makes the bad juju go away and the charger does its thing. He seems to think there is some fault with the generator’s voltage regulator. Sounds good to me…but then I just used the term “bad juju” to describe the anomaly. What do I know? Power Supply will dispatch a technician most likely on Tuesday. They have two Onan techs and one of them is on a commercial tugboat job and the other is on jury duty. Curse due process!

Otherwise Monday was a sit-around day. Lisa worked quietly on her computer and I spent my time alternating between napping, looking at lol-cat pictures on the internet and watching episodes from the last season of “MXC – Most Extreme Elimination Challenge”, another weird TV show I like. I was going to wash the boat but, darn, it rained.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Georgia On Our Minds – Part 1

Did I Say We Were Leaving Thursday? I Meant Friday.   Friday, May 17

To blatantly rip off Mark Twain in this paraphrase, “The rumors of us leaving are greatly premature.” Phil Jones needed one more day to finish the inverter installation and rewiring. So the publicized plans of leaving Jekyll Island on Thursday changed to leaving on Friday. And this was a good thing.

We knew that several of our friends, Kermit and Katherine of Good Karma, Dick and Deanne of Sareanna and Mike and Judy of One September were behind us a few days and that if we stayed put at Jekyll Harbor Marina long enough they would catch up with us. But you gotta go when you gotta go, so we never knew when we might see them. But we were fortunate that they all pulled into the marina Thursday evening. We have travelled with Dick and Deanna, and Kermit and Katherine before, but hadn’t spent much time with Mike and Judy. They’re delightful people who further illustrate that boaters are the greatest people in the world. We hung around for a while and had dinner and talked about everything looping and cruising.

Our plans were to leave Friday morning on an outside course to an anchorage called Breakfast Creek just south of Savannah. The plan for the others was to leave also on Friday morning but stay inside on the ICW to an anchorage a bit further south of our anchorage choice. Since Jekyll Creek, just north of the marina, is a bear to pass at low-ish tide they would have to wait until mid-morning to leave. We left at 7:00 am and headed south away from Jekyll Creek to exit through Jekyll Sound from which we would head north along the coast. According to nautical charts there was plenty of water depth in the sound to do this. Everything was going swimmingly except that weather forecasts were sounding as if conditions might be a tad sloppy. But we were good to go! And then a weird thing happened. We were cruising out the inlet and according to the chartplotter we were in nineteen feet of water with plenty of water all around us. That’s when we hit bottom. It wasn’t really so much of a “hit” but more of a bounce. But we were rubbing bottom. I was able to get her turned about and as I did not have a backup plan I headed back to Jekyll Harbor Marina, thinking to myself in a bit of self-thought-reconditioning, “Ya know, going up the ICW is a better idea anyway.” And it was. We had our little four boat flotilla cruising north and it was a lot of fun. Captain Dick, who so ably led our eight boat flotilla on the Gulf Crossing led us again, followed by Mike and Judy, then Kermit and Katherine, then Lisa and I. We all stayed on radio channel 72 and there was a lot of chatter.

Let me tell you a bit about Kermit. He is a terrific person and funnier than hell. I don’t know if he is an ADD adult or not but he is a very, shall we say, lively person. I had to laugh at a tee shirt he was wearing that said something like, “I do not have ADD! Oh look, a squirrel.” Now, I am not an ADD adult myself but I am apparently a Kermit-enabler. I must admit that I goosed him along on the radio just to get a good laugh. But there were funny things that happened that he didn’t need my help at all. The flies were very bad that day and as we were the last boat behind Good Karma we could sort of see into their flybridge. At one point we saw wild gesticulations on the bridge. We didn’t quite know what was going on. Finally the view became clear. It was Kermit waving his ADD tee shirt wildly to try to get rid of all the flies. His tee shirt could have read, “I do not have ADD. DAMN FLIES!” Funny stuff.

The flotilla heading north
We pushed north to a beautiful anchorage called Wahlberg Creek, just south of St. Catherines Sound. It is a wide and deep anchorage so the decision was made for us to raft. Dick found a spot first to drop his hook and get it set well. Then One September came in on Sareanna’s starboard side and tied up. Good Karma tied up on Sareanna’s port side and we tied up on Good Karma’s port side. (For those of you who are not port/starboard oriented, left to right it was Why Knot, Good Karma, Sareanna and One September.) Dick broke out his gas barbecue grill and expertly grilled everyone’s choice of meat. Then there were other dishes made and we all met on the beautifully wide open flybridge of One September. It was a beautiful evening with good friends, good food, a bit of alcohol and lots of laughs. It was a good evening.

Judy and Mike of One September

Deanne and Dick of Sareanna, Kermit and Katherine of Good Karma
Lisa’s and my plans from this point were originally to head way up into South Carolina, past Savannah, to an anchorage called Cowen Creek. We had stopped there last year and knew that it was good place to drop a hook and get a good night’s sleep. But quite frankly, we had a lot of fun with our boating buddies. Now, I am a preplanning wonk. I usually have at least an outline of the next bunch of days cruising plans laid out, especially through this stretch of Georgia and South Carolina. But the other three boats of our flotilla did not. The decision to stop at Wahlberg Creek was made on the fly and the only other plans was that they were going to stop at a marina called Thunderbolt Marina. (There is a town named Thunderbolt. That is an awesome name.) As they were chattering about it Mike came on the radio and invited us to join them. We gladly accepted. Katherine started making phone calls and found out that Thunderbolt didn’t have the slips to take on four boats. But she did find that Isle of Hope Marina (a marina we stayed at last year) could. So off to Isle of Hope we go on Saturday.

One side benefit to this stop is that it means that we will probably be able to see the season finale of Doctor Who, our favorite TV show. I know there are a few Doctor Who fans that read this blog and if you are keeping up with this season you know that this last episode is titled “The Name of the Doctor” and it has been a huge geek-out thing. Forget who shot JR. Doctor Who fans have been waiting to see this episode for FIFTY FREAKING YEARS! Will we actually learn his real name which might unravel the mystery of his entire 940 year life as a galaxy traveling Time Lord? Or will the writers cleverly find a way for The Doctor to cleverly escape the conundrum of having to answer the question hidden in plane sight on the Fields of Trensalore? And will Darrell and Lisa be finally exposed as the mega-geeks that everyone has suspected them of being already? Stay tuned. 8:00 pm eastern time, Saturday, May 18, 2013 BBC America.

Isle of Hope and The Charger/Inverter Saga Continues   Saturday, May 18

During our anchorage we noticed that the newly installed charger/inverter was not charging the batteries while the generator was being used. This is a problem. This would mean that A) something was not right with either the charger/inverter, its installation or the generator, and B) We would not be able to proceed much further than Savannah because the next several hundred miles requires quite a few anchorages along the way.

During the early morning of our stay at the anchorage, with Verizon cell service available in the area, I sent an email to Phil Jones, the gentleman that did all of the work down in Jekyll. I told him of my observations about the whole thing of the charger not engaging while the generator was running. I was hoping I would receive a reply back with some sort of simple instruction of how to change a setting in the system or something like that.

We pulled into Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah about noon. We had been here before and knew that it was good stop. The docks are good, the staff friendly and, with using one of their two loaner cars, it was a good provisioning stop as there is a Walmart Supercenter and a Sams Club five minutes away. This was one of the first things we did. After we returned to the boat it was nap time.

At about 5:00 pm the phone rang. It was Phil Jones. He had just read the email and was eager to help us. Back in Jekyll he had told us that he had a 500 mile guarantee – He would travel up to 500 miles gratis to our location to make sure that everything was working as it is supposed to work. After a short conversation he said that he would drive the two hours from St. Marys, Georgia to Savannah to take a look at the situation. I told him that this was not necessary but he insisted. And so at 8:00 pm he showed up at the marina and got to work…on a Saturday night!

This is where it gets weird. I don’t mean to get too technical but our boat has two AC power circuit panels, one for all of the wall sockets, appliances and the like, another for the HVAC gear. During all of the tests and trials of the electrical system, generator and charger/inverter he discovered that weirdly when the generator was running the battery charger system would in fact actually start recharging the batteries as well as supply AC power to the rest of the boat but only when the air conditioner was turned on, and even after the air conditioner was turned back off. But unless the air conditioner was at least turned on no charging would take place. This is not how it is supposed to work. The charger is supposed to kick in whenever there is a draw-down of battery voltage from a set voltage level. In his words he was baffled. There was also one other thing going on, that being that there was still voltage being shown in the first AC circuitry (for the receptacles, etc.) even after the main breaker for that panel was open (turned off). The way things were left was that he would call the manufacturer of the charger/inverter on Monday to see what could be done.

Sunday, May 19 

I received another phone call from Phil. He had spent a considerable amount of time researching this situation. He has come to the conclusion that something is in fact wrong with the generator. Most likely there is some kind of problem with the neutral ground coming from the generator that would thwart the charger from receiving a qualifying current to kick on the charger without a boost to the current when the air conditioner is turned on. Now, if you remember from the previous post one of the things that was discovered back in the earliest times of the investigation into Why Knot’s electrical system problems back in Jekyll was that something odd was going on with the ground circuitry. At the time it was thought to be something in the wiring, the panel or the inverter. Could it be that the source of the ground anomalies was coming from the generator all along? It could be. Now, in fairness the decision to replace the charger/inverter is still valid. It was cooked. But what is happening is that some kind of strange electrical system vortex is opening and we are watching our money get sucked down into it.

What caused the original breakdown is up for debate. It very well could be that the entire system including the wiring, the old charger/inverter and the generator were all in some kind of ongoing faulty state but were in some kind of balance, able to continue working just good enough. Then something, maybe a spike or dip in power from the suspect shore power at Jekyll Harbor Marina, caused the charger/inverter to finally give up the ghost causing all of the other problems to come tumbling down.

Now, how do we feel about this? I guess there are two ways to look at it. It certainly does suck that we are spending so much time and money on all this. But on the other hand there were very real safety concerns as was demonstrated very graphically by all of the scorching of the electrical panel compartment and the burnt cords. There was a very real danger in all of this. Something definitely is wrong and it must be addressed. When all of this is finally behind us we will have as close to a brand spanking new electrical system as our little ol’ boat can have.

So here are the plans. We will stay at Isle of Hope Marina for now. Phil is going to contact Xantrex, the manufacturer of the charger/inverter, and work it from his end. We will contact a local  marine generator and engine service/sales company for them to do a complete analysis of the generators charging head, the part that actually makes the electricity. Perhaps it needs to be rebuilt. Dick from Sareanna says that I should look at it like our car’s alternator needing to be rebuilt… TIMES FIVE!

All this and we didn't even get to watch Doctor Who. 

The vortex is spinning faster and faster ever flowing downward into the emptiness of oblivion.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Getting Stuck At Jekyll Ain’t Such a Bad Thing

As I write this on Wednesday May,15th, Phil Jones, the marine electrician mentioned previously, is down below in the engine compartment installing our spiffy brand new Xantrex 2012 Charger/Inverter, and we are very pleased about that. El Supremo Dockmaster Scott (He needed a better title.) made sure that the contraption was here yesterday afternoon as promised and we are optimistic that we will be underway tomorrow. We will head to an anchorage at Breakfast Creek which is not too far south of Savannah. We will go out into the ocean from St. Andrew sound, which is south of Jekyll to avoid the shallows of Jekyll Creek near low tide, and motor up to Ossabow Sound. From there we will briefly join the ICW veering off onto the Vernon River to the anchorage. The weather and sea conditions which have been exceptional lately should still be good.

All this repair stuff has meant that we have had a few days to kill on Jekyll Island. And this has turned out to be a good thing. It is a very charming and interesting place. If you like lots of shopping and lots of things to do then Jekyll is not for you. But if you are in search of a tranquil and peaceful place with broad beaches, rustic charm, biking or hiking then this place might fit the bill nicely.

Jekyll Island was a millionaires retreat in years gone by with beautiful mansions that the super-rich of old called their “cottages”. Obviously their understanding of what a cottage is and what the rest of us think differs. These cottages are opulent abodes in a village setting. Things are very unrushed here. It’s tranquil. There are a few sights to see here such as the fascinating Georgia Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center where you can see live sea turtles all en route to being brought back to health and returned to the wild. There are several house tours available and great bike paths that go through wonderfully diverse environments. And the beaches are beautiful. They have kept development at bay. (For now! There is a push to begin more aggressive development.) But again, if you are looking for action then this isn’t going to work for you. This is for relaxing. The only downside that we could see is that there aren’t very many choices for dining. The first night we were here we ate at the big manse that was turned into a hotel and restaurant. It was pretty pricey and the food was only so-so. There is also a bar and grill on the street by the ocean but it was pretty bad. (How do you screw up a patty melt?) But there is a Dairy Queen! But, even with those demerits we have enjoyed out stay here.

But it is time to move on! Hopefully that will be tomorrow.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Do the Initials B O A T Stand For?

Some friends at Jekyll Island that we cruised up from Jacksonville with.
David and Diane of Boot Scootin
Sarah and Brooks of Our Time
Ok boaters! All together now, “Bring Out Another Thousand,” Yes it is true that maintaining a boat costs moolah and all of a sudden our boat is no exception.

Up to now Why Knot has been fairly reliable. There were of course repairs along the way. We’ve replaced all of the batteries. The generator has needed work. The head was rebuilt. The oil cooler housing needed to be burnished in spots and the gasket replaced. The fresh water pump needed to be replaced. But even with those things, including some normal maintenance issues such as impellers and the like, it hasn’t been too bad. But as we started up the Florida coast it seems that problems have been cropping up at almost every port. The heat exchanger on the generator needed replacing in Vero Beach, the engine starter had to be rebuilt in Titusville and now at Jekyll Island, Georgia we have our largest repair, and very likely the largest payout. To put it without sounding alarmist, we apparently had an electrical fire and didn’t even know it.

Our boat’s electrical system has always had some odd characteristics. Namely that the AC power circuit panel would still have current running to the circuits and the devices hooked into them even when that panel’s ON/OFF switch was turned off. This was bewildering to us but it did not seem to cause any problems and, quite frankly, we didn’t know any better. When we pulled into Jekyll Harbor Marina at Jekyll Island and tried to hook up the shore power the main ON/OFF switch for the AC panel which is also a breaker, would keep flipping and turning the circuit off completely. The DC was fine and even another AC circuit panel that was dedicated to HVAC needs was ok. But the panel for outlets, the refrigerator and the like would not work. We also found that the ends of the shore power cords that bring power onto the boat and the plugs on the boat that they get plugged into were badly scorched. This is not a good sign. We were able to keep AC power on with the generator so we were able to stay on the boat that night. (It should be noted that I sleep with a CPAP device so AC power is a must.)

The next morning (Saturday) a very able and clever man name Sonny Reeves boarded out boat. He is not a marine technician per se but was fully qualified to get into it. He is a master technician that trains trainers that trains ASE certified vehicle technicians. He was also very highly recommended by others at the marina so we felt confident that he was a good choice. He dug into it. His first objective was to replace the burned cords and wall plugs for shore power. Upon opening the access panel he immediately saw something the he and we found very disturbing. The insides of the panel box and the outlet plugs were burned. The wires on the plugs were melted and the raw copper filaments were exposed and arcing. Most alarming was that the wood of the inside of the panel box was burned. He told us that we very likely had a fire recently in the box and that we were fortunate that it did not escalate into something much more terrible. Having replaced the outlet and the cords he then set about finding the cause. (Remember – A leak never gets smaller. There had to be a cause.)  As he poked around the circuit panel wiring he found several more wires and connectors that were scorched or melted. He replaced those. He then came across something that was puzzling. The individual AC circuit breakers were still putting out power even when they were turned off. Using his electrical meter and a lot of patience he discovered that the neutral ground was in fact carrying a charge to the circuits also. In other words the breakers were for all intents and purposes always on. And it has been that way for a long, long time. This created a back-looping of electricity throughout the AC panel and circuits. This in turn conflicted with the inverter/charger, which in turn has been gradually wearing out. The inverter circuitry has been experiencing a slow death to the point that hooking it up to the shore power at the marina, and we guess with some kind of little power surge, sent the entire system into a tizzy and the inverter could no longer handle the load and it died. In fact when he was able to remove the power coming through the neutral ground the inverter was no longer functional. The inverter/charger is kaput and needs to be replaced. More importantly the entire wiring of the boat on the AC side of things needs to be examined to find and solve the neutral back-looping thing. Another way of looking at it would be to say that the AC panel was in a constant state of being short circuited which caused power fluctuations that burnt the outlet, the cords and caused the fire.
the shore power cord with brand new scorching

The inside of the shore power outlet
Sonny was great and we are very grateful that he was so easily available and eager to help. But he told us that he did not feel comfortable with going any further with the work. This is because while he was ok with replacing the charger/inverter he did not have confidence in dealing with the grounding issue without detailed schematics, which of course do not exist. (His fix before was temporary for investigation.) He said that we need a professional marine electrician for that. He did recommend a guy back down in Jacksonville named Phil Jones. Sonny and us attempted to contact him but so far he has not called either of us back. Hopefully Mr. Jones will come to us. If not we are told the boat is ok to travel so we might have to go back to Jacksonville. We’ll see.

So right now we are at a hotel on Jekyll Island. The boat is secure we are comfortable. We’re not sure how long we will be here but this is work that obviously needs to be done. It’s by far the biggest repair that has had to be done on Why Knot to date and we are anxious to get it completed so we can continue up north.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

JAX Redux

As I have mentioned previously since we completed our loop and started making the run back up Florida, it is fascinating making the cruise through what are now familiar places. Marineland to Jacksonville is an example.

All conditions were good for the day, May 8, 2013. Lisa took Why Knot off of the dock and out of the marina. This is important because one of the things I am trying to do more of is getting Lisa to be the skipper in more kinds of situations. I admit it. I am a boat-driving pig. I really enjoy it. Lisa does great with open water and channels, but she does not have much experience in marinas and with close maneuvering. I am purposefully looking at every opportunity for her to gain more of that kind of experience.

The cruise up to Jacksonville was uneventful. The most notable thing was how often we made comments like, “Oh, I remember that,” or “Oh, that’s new.” Our plans were to make a one night stop just north of the St. John River (which last year looked monstrously big, this year not so much) and then head up to Jekyll Harbor Marina on Thursday. As I often do I planned a primary and back up mooring. The backup location was a nice size anchorage area just north of the Sisters Creek drawbridge on the ICW just north of the St. John. The primary location was a brand spanking new free dock on an inlet on the north side of the Joe King recreation area, again just north of the drawbridge. Non-boating readers may not quite understand the significance of this, but the boaters will. A free dock to tie up to is a big deal. And this dock was awesome. It was definitely not here last year and it is a long, floating concrete beauty. It does not have any electricity but it does have running water and good depth. So…any boaters going up or down needing a place to stop, this will do the job nicely.

Note to mariners – We came in at low tide and had no problems other than the strong tidal current. It could be tricky. My recommendation is to approach the inlet from the south and don’t get too cozy with the sign at the opening. Cheat a bit to the south shore. There was plenty of room to maneuver but the closer you keep things to the dock the better off you’ll be. Sailboaters – don’t go too far up the inlet to turn around. We had 12’ under us at the dock at low tide.

Our cruise plans to get up to Norfolk goes something like this: Jekyll Harbor Marina for two nights, to see a sea turtle sanctuary there and to set us up to pass the infamous Jekyll Creek (high tide passage only), then four nights anchoring out, then Charleston, South Carolina, next Georgetown (a fueling stop also), then Barefoot Landing Marina in North Mrytle Beach, South Carolina. That’s as far as my detailed plans go. But from there we enter North Carolina with Oriental and the Alligator River Marina as stops. From there we will either cross Albermarle Sound to head up to Coinjock and Norfolk or explore the barrier islands of North Carolina first – still to be decided.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Just note – I have always reported speeds and distances in nautical and statute measurements. From now on I will be reporting in statute only.

May 6, 2013
We pulled out of Titusville Marina at about 6:45 am under almost calm conditions. It was long day. We would cover 82 miles ending the day’s cruise at a new marina called Marineland Marina at mile marker 796 next to the original Marineland water amusement center. (More about that tomorrow.) Conditions were ideal with light winds and sunny skies. The cruise ended up being a three act drama each with its own characteristics.

Act 1 – The Opening
Heading up the remainder of Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon I pushed the boat a bit trying to eek out a bit more speed. I usually run the Cat at anywhere between 1600 and 1900 rpm and in calm conditions the boat would motor along anywhere between eight and nine miles per hour. Nine miles per hour was my target speed so that we would arrive at our destination at somewhere around 4:30 pm with a bit of time built in to allow for one drawbridge we might have to wait for and making slow passes for the inevitable traffic  throughout the day. So running at 1900 rpm was the norm. I would also be happy if we arrived at 5:00. All in all the first act went well and we made good time heading up to where the second act would start, arriving just to the south of Smyrna Beach.

Act 2 – The Plot Thickens
As we approached Smyrna Beach it was becoming more difficult to maintain our nine mile per hour speed goal. Traffic was a bit of a factor but the close confines of Smyrna Beach meant we had to slow down for the marinas until we could pass under the Mussen drawbridge. After that I could open her up again. But that effort was soon thwarted by the villain of this story, the tide!
Motoring north from Smyrna Beach our speed began to drop drastically as we were getting caught going against a tide swing. It got even worse going through the Daytona Beach area. I pushed the throttle up to 2100 rpm and at times our speed was no more than 6.5 or 7 mph. Doing quick speed/distance calculations our arrival time was getting later and later. If things stayed this way our arrival would be pushed back to 6:00 or even 7:00 pm. Not good. But then act three happened.

Act 3 – The Tables Are Turned (Tide Tables, that is.)
The antagonist of the story looked like it was going to win. But then somewhere between Daytona Beach and Flagler Beach we settle in right smack dab into the outgoing tide that flowed north on the Mantazes River to Mantazes Inlet and we were screaming along towards our destination. Our speed started climbing: 8.0, 8.3, 8.8, 9.3, 9.7, 10.1, 10.8, 11.1! We were going so fast we were a blur to onlookers on shore. Well, not really, but we were going fast! And we were able to ride the tide for a good hour or so. We started making up time and distance in a big way and ended up arriving at the marina at 4:30 pm, just like I planned. The conflict is resolved and the hero wins! Applause and a standing ovation from the audience. Curtain call. Good night everybody, thanks for coming and drive home safely.

There is a saying that applies here – Sometimes you’re good. Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes you’re good AND lucky.

Notice to mariners – If you are up this way and need a good place to tie up we would highly recommend Marineland Marina. It is a new marina. This winter is only their second winter season open. Nice place.

Marineland Marina

Why Knot sitting pretty

Tuesday, May 07, 2013
DDD – Dockmaster Distance Delusion. It’s a terrible disease that afflicts 9 out of 10 dockmasters causing them to totally misjudge distances from a marina to local services such as stores, restaurants or attractions. I’ve talked about this before. It grieves me to see such anguish in nice people. Case in point are the dockmaster and hands here at Marineland Marina. This is a first class little marina, but they have DDD very bad indeed.

We needed milk so we headed out on our bicycles to go the nearest Publix supermarket. The dock hands told us it was only three miles away. My butt its only three miles away. (And my butt was certainly letting me know they were wrong.) We traveled that far and there was no Publix in sight. It is probably more like five miles down the A1A. But at about the three mile mark we did come to a Kangaroo store (similar to Qwiktrip, 7-11, Mobil On-The-Run, etc) and bought a gallon and headed back. It really wasn’t a big deal but it does always seem that the distances to things is under-estimated, doesn’t it boaters?

One attraction that is not a great distance away is Marineland. It is literally across the street. I mean we can see the entrance from our boat. That is where we headed in the afternoon.
It’s now actually called Dolphin Adventure at Marineland, or Marineland Dolphin Adventure (saw it both ways) and it is very different than what most people think of when the concept of Marineland comes to mind. Most would think of jumping dolphins doing funny tricks while some guy named Biff and his lovely assistant Peggy smiling largely at the crowd. That is not the way it is now. (It actually has a interesting history. Look up their website for it.) 

Today it is a dolphin research facility. There are no more shows but there are lots of dolphins to see in the very large tanks with gigantic three inch thick windows. The admission price ranges from only $10 to saunter around and watch the dolphins and enjoy the very pretty ocean view, to $450 to be a trainer for the day. There are several different packages that let you touch the dolphins, swim with the dolphins and even to play poker with the dolphins. (That last one is a lie. They play bridge.) We chose the $17 guided tour that does take you behind the scenes to see the research facilities and some tanks of other sea life that isn’t on general display. (Tarpons are really big! And remora fish are really ugly and we understand why the Canadians are so keen on keeping them out of the Trent Severn.) All in all it is a good diversion for an hour or two and it won’t break the bank unless you want it to. We recommend it. 

Quick note

We have been asked by several people what the music was that played in the background of our video of us closing our loop.

It is called "I Am the Doctor" from the soundtrack from season five of the British science fiction television series "Doctor Who", of which Lisa and I are fans.

Great music. Great television show. If you like science fiction it is worth a watch. Wikipedia has a very extensive description of the show.

And if you feel out of sorts, you don't know what day it is and reality seems a bit strange it's because things sometimes get timey-whimy, wibbly-wobbly. Boating will do that to you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mission Rules

NASA has things called mission rules. When a negative event occurs a mission rule dictates what course of action to take. I’m sure that other endeavors have mission rules also, but since we have been in Titusville and NASA lingo is on my mind, I’ll use the term “mission rules”.

Most of these mission rules have to do with getting in and out of marinas. Some of them are as follows:
  • Always request a tee head or an outside slip first. If not available consider only a slip that is near the end of the dock. Never accept a slip assignment further in on a thoroughfare, and then only if the thoroughfare is wide, such as seventy feet wide or more.
  • When leaving a slip the winds should be five knots or less with a wind direction that would be helpful with the exit. For instance, if a stern out exit is desirable the wind should be blowing out so the stern goes out with the wind putting the boat in the proper direction. Same if we would want the make a bow-first exit. The wind should blow the stern into the thoroughfare so the bow is heading out.
  • When entering a slip the winds should be coming at us head on.
  • The crew should be physically ready to go.

  • One of our other cruising rules is when winds are greater than ten knots they should be at our back or our sides. (Some readers may say this makes me a weather wuss. Guilty as charged. And if some of you more crusty captains are thinking that sometimes you have to buck up and take charge of the circumstances and damn the torpedoes…do it with you own boat. One very important lesson we have learned is the wind is like a second engine with somebody else at its controls.)

There are others that are now more or less instinctive but the ones above are consciously paid attention to. I’m sure other boaters do the same thing. The one that is most important to me is the one that the crew is ready to go. When we attended our first AGLCA rendezvous in Norfolk last May I sat in on a somewhat poorly attended seminar presented by the president of a marine insurance company. It’s too bad it was not attended by everyone because I, frankly, got a hell of a lot of very useful information from it. In the presentation it was said that a captain must consider about a half a dozen factors before making the decision to go out or not. Things such as weather conditions, water conditions, traffic, cruise plan, and the condition of the boat are obvious. But the one he really stressed was the condition of the crew. He was emphatic that if the crew is not ready to go it is the responsibility of the captain to not go! And this makes perfect sense because, as he said, most accidents, injuries and fatalities are caused by human error or physical failure. And if a crew is not physically, mentally and emotionally ready to go then the probability of having a mishap, or worse a life threatening accident, increases tremendously. This is the reason for our “One NO vote wins” rule.

Today is Sunday, May 5, 2013 and as noted in yesterday’s blog post it was to be our goboat day with a long eighty mile run to Marineland Marina. Yesterday evening everything looked good. Winds were to be very low in the morning and everything was falling into place. Of course, as is often the case, the first look at things when I woke up presented me with a new set of circumstances to consider. First, the winds had picked up overnight and the forecast was for sustained winds of ten or more knots with gusts in the fifteen to eighteen knot range. So the second mission rule was broken. But I was somewhat ready to go with it anyway because we are bow-first at the end of a dock in an inside slip and the wind was coming from a direction that would push our stern out of the thoroughfare, and with an unusual placing of the inside slip piling our bow would swing in a way that would make this kind of exit possible. I could deal with that. I like stern first maneuvering. Unfortunately a very large cruiser came in late and tied up to the fuel dock that is the tee dock next to us. And even though he had plenty of room he tied up with his bow sticking ten feet into the already narrow exit of the thoroughfare effectively blocking us. Damn. And because the winds were blowing out I did not have confidence that I could get the stern swung around the other way so I could do a bow first exit. So at least we would be stuck in our slip until the cruiser left. Also, the thoroughfare is narrow down at our end so taking advantage of any maneuvering room is important. (One of our friends recently had a mishap while trying to exit a marina under windy conditions complicated by a tidal current. They damaged their boat when they were not able to avoid crushing into the anchor of a docked sailboat.) On top of all that the wind direction for the cruise would be hitting us head on or at least off the port bow so our speed would be diminished somewhat. And as we were going to try to jump eighty miles we needed every piece of speed we could get.

Now, about the crew being ready to go – both Lisa and I had a tough night last night. I just had my usual tossing and turning along with that kind of hazy, half-conscience kind of sleep. But I woke up ok and felt I was ready to go. But Lisa had a tough night. As I have mentioned in previous posts Lisa caught some kind of lung crud on our last shore leave that just will not go away. That’s one of the reasons we spent a week in Indiantown. She needed some recuperation time. Last night she was awake several times during the night so that when our time to depart was approaching she was still trying to catch up on sleep lost during the night.

So all things considered I decided that we would stay in Titusville one more day. Now, I don’t play my Captain’s card very often, but today is an exception. I have ordered (or as she is the Admiral, strongly suggested) that today she is to totally shut down. She is not to work, not to exert herself nor do so much as lift a finger. (Ross, I’m sorry if Laura showed this to you saying, “SEE! SEE!”) Tomorrow is another day.

Btw, it’s now raining and the skipper of the cruiser said that if it wasn’t for his schedule to be in Jacksonville today to pick up the owner he would not go out today either.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting Ready to Get Going

We are still in Titusville, which ain’t such a bad thing. The weather has been lousy with strong winds, waves and rain. The weather systems have been swirling around here for a week. Sunday, May 5th looks like our goboat day and we are ready to get back underway. All things are fixed. We are pumped out. The water tank is full. There is nothing to stop us except the weather. Our next stop is the new-ish Marineland Marina eighty statute miles up from here. The next several weeks are going to be pretty much every day cruising. We will spend an extra day in Marineland to check out Marineland itself, but after that we are going to make waves on up to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days, then up to Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to meet up with Rick and Margi of Journey.

Our days here in Titusville have not been wasted on idle lounging or, shall we say, other indoor activities. We've also been exploring the history of our boat. As I have mentioned before Why Knot was built here by Nelson Yachts back in 1988. And a lot of people refer to these boats as Thompson Nelson trawlers. They were first made by Thompson Boats also here in Titusville. Thompson’s ship yard was on the north side of the marina, Nelson on the south side. We walked up to what was formally Thompson’s shipyard where there is another custom ship builder now. (They build commercial specialty boats.) The lady at the front desk found a guy there that used to work for Thompson and he was happy to tell us a bit of the history and story of Rodney Thompson and the ship yard.

Rodney Thompson is a bit of a story himself. Originally from South Carolina he was making a good living building small commercial fishing boats. He moved down to Titusville in the 1960s and converted one of his successful hulls, a forty-four foot job, to a live-aboard pleasure craft. This was the original forty-five foot boat like Why Knot. He built somewhere around one-hundred-twenty of them. He also built a limited number of thirty-three and fifty-two foot versions. But he made his money from the forty-fives. He then decided to get into building some really big boats, a ninety foot long boat. And at the time it was the longest fiberglass boat on the planet. But his zeal (and costs) to build this boat got out of hand. He liquidated all of the tooling for his smaller pleasure craft to a guy named Greg Nelson to finance his project. That unfortunately did not work. Thompson soon had to call it quits and he closed up his shipyard and soon opened a local seafood restaurant. And in the spirit of all great entrepreneurs, he developed a machine that automatically shelled rock shrimp. He made his fortune back with this invention His restaurant, Dixie Crossroads, is also a success (fine good eating, too) and his story ends happily.

Lisa with...we'll call him Rodney.

Darrell and Rodney. We're BFFs.

Besides being a greeter Rodney also catches the special of the day.
 The guy at the ship builders told us that Rodney’s daughter, Lorilee, owns and runs the restaurant now. So Lisa and I took a soggy walk the seven or eight blocks to the restaurant where we had a few minutes to talk to her. Rodney is still alive at eighty-two years of age but doesn’t get around much. She was pleased that we had one of the proud Thompson / Nelson boats. We told her the stories about all of the people that approached us about her, asking about her, and the radio hails we would get asking us “Is that a Thompson?” It was a pleasant conversation. We gave her one of our boat cards and she said it would be fun to show our online pictures to her dad. (Lorilee is kind of interesting too. She was also a commercial shrimp boat captain. Now she is a successful restaurateur.)

Now, about Nelson.

I walked down to the other boatyard which is part of Midland Marina, formally Nelson's Midland Marina. I met a guy named Rick who worked there at the time Nelson was in the yacht business. He told me that Nelson is still around but is kind of a hermit now. Nelson built eighteen or nineteen boats one at a time. This according to Nelson himself in a talk he gave to a Thompson Nelson rendezvous some years ago, a transcript of which was transferred with all of the boat’s papers. Rick asked me who the original owner was. The guy’s name was George Redmon. Surprisingly Rick remembered him and he was able to give me more info on our boat.  Unlike most of the other boats which were delivered only half finished to other boat finishers for things like the interior and exterior components, Nelson built our boat fully finished as a spec boat that he would sell outright ready to go. Unfortunately the great yacht bubble was beginning to burst with the final blow being the luxury tax imposed in 1990. Our boat was actually on display along the main highway in town for two years before George Redmon and his wife bought it, right before Nelson closed his business in 1991. So, according to Rick, our boat was the last Thompson/Nelson boat built and sold. Wow. The last of the breed. In between our boat and the business closing Nelson tried to hang on re-outfitting other yachts. But he couldn’t keep it going. He now has a cottage business restoring Corvettes.  

If there is one word to describe our time at Titusville it would be “history”. We learned and experienced so much about the history of this nation’s amazing space achievements. And we learned about the history of our home, Why Knot, the last of the Thompson Nelson trawlers. And as we have said many times, our boat is the best boat in any marina…always!

PS – I gave Titusville Marina a 5-star rating on ActiveCaptain. Nice facility, incredible staff. Also, Phil Scanlan of Mims Mobile Marine Service is excellent. Upon reading our review the marina manager sent us a nice note saying that he had seen many T N trawlers and ours was by far the prettiest. He is obviously a man who knows his boats.
PS2 – Here is a link on why the 1990 Luxury Tax was a failure. Interesting reading.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Vos iustus nescirem (Latin - You Just Never Know)

One of life’s most annoying characteristics is anti-climax. You get yourself up for something to occur and when the time is ripe for the occurrence to occur (How’s that for witty wordplay?) something somehow gets in the way and you end up with a big fat thud. So it is today, May 2, 2013, here in Titusville, Florida.

We have had a technical problem with the boat and these circumstances made it appear we would be here for the entire week. The engine starting motor died and our friendly neighborhood marine technician, Phil of Mims Mobile Marine Service (He gets an “A” grade, by the way), pulled it and took it to a shop in New Smyrna Beach to be rebuilt or repaired. We had slipped comfortably into that extended-marine-stay mode, thinking that we weren’t going to get out of here until Saturday or Sunday. The weather reports were iffy with rain, possible thunderstorms and some wind. But nothing we had not seen before in forecasts, which many times turned into reasonably nice cruising days. After all, a 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms could also be read as a 50% chance of nice weather. But it appeared that the forecasts were moot as we weren’t going to get out of here anyway…as we had NO WAY TO START THE ENGINE!

On Tuesday evening as we were watching some episode from season five of “West Wing” we were surprised to get a call from Phil with the good news that the starting motor was ready to be re-installed  This obviously pleased us greatly. Our thoughts immediately turned from nap times over the next several days to routes and destinations. It looked like we were going to get out of here and continue north. Yay!

Phil, and his assistant Carl, showed up on Wednesday and went to work re-installing the starting motor. After some tinkering and a few false starts the engine came back to life with its cat-like purr, albeit a very big cat. (Get it? “cat-like purr? Caterpillar engine? Oh, forget it.) We were ready to go. We went and finalized our bill with the marina and starting making ready to get a good start on Thursday morning. The weather forecast was still holding in its original form and we were betting that that 50% thing was going to be in our favor. We were anxious. We were excited.


During the night we heard the unmistakable sound of heavy rain on the fiberglass above our heads. Waaa!  It was raining fairly hard and as sunrise appeared it was very gray and gloomy. The forecasts had been updated showing seventy to eighty percent chances of thunderstorms through Saturday. Winds weren’t a big deal yet. That apparently comes later in the day. There was not going to be a big deal as far as water chop goes but, frankly, I don’t like cruising in the rain. First, visibility is a factor. Second, I don’t like Lisa out on the decks when they are slippery, not to mention her getting wet. And third, it’s just plain dull, depressing and an overall bummer. Furthermore, to make the THUD of anti-climax even more of a THUD this front is damn big and very slow. The forecasts clearly show that it will pass Friday and Saturday but not a moment sooner. Sunday looks wonderful.

So here we sit still in Titusville with a boat all ready to go, a crew anxious to get moving and weather that overrules all of our intentions. This is a dictionary definition of anti-climax. Look it up. You’ll likely see a picture of us.