28 April 2016 was set as our new date to depart for Charleston and all went according to plan. Our son, Nathaniel, took us to the Atlanta airport to pick up our rental car. We met up off the airport property to transfer the remaining gear we were taking to the boat and by one o'clock in the afternoon we were on our way to the boat. We arrived at the boat at about 6:30 and transferred our gear from the car We still have the last of the provisioning to do--pick up fresh and cold foods. We also have a couple of very important events to attend to; Tim's birthday and our 32nd anniversary. We chose dinner at a very nice Japanese restaurant, Miyabi, located only a few miles from the boat and then it was off to the grocery store. We returned to the boat, put the food away and called it a night.
29 April 2016 was the day we decided to leave the dock. This is a day earlier than originally planned but we figure getting out a day early was a very good thing. You never know when you are going to need that day as a lay day somewhere along the way. There was still a good deal of cleaning up and storing of provisions and gear to be done and we had to return the rental car by noon to the Charleston airport. With the car returned we ubered back to our boat and by 1300 we were ready to go. The tide was right so Tim cranked up the engine at 1315 and Suzanne removed the electrical cord from the dock and retrieved the dock lines. Tim eased us out of our slip and we were on our way!
At this time, before I forget, let me say thank you to all of our on-land support staff without whom we would not be able to do this. Our son, Nathaniel, Suzanne's sister, Karen, brother Ronald, and mother, Kit.
Now, back to our trip. We had to lower the mast when we reached the bascule bridge at the mouth of Charleston Bay and the Ashley River. Then we were off and running for the AICW. We reached the AICW magenta line heading north at 1550. We reached our 1st nights anchorage at 1715. By 1730 we are settled in for the evening and the decks are clear; time for dinner. We have lots of food left over from our Japanese dinner last night so we are having leftovers. Nope, one more thing to do before dinner, we have to check the status of the fuel in our tanks. Last year we had a problem with a blockage in the fuel lines so that the unspent fuel from the engine was not returning to the proper tank. Tim blew out the line last year but we have not had the opportunity to check it out; well, now we can. We have two tanks that hold about 60 gallons each. They should read nearly equal. Tim has made a long stick with graduations on it to read the fuel in the tank. The results were a bit discouraging. We have 18 gallons in the port tank and 35 gallons in the starboard tank. We will see how things go tomorrow when we will check again. For now it is dinner, a little reading and then bed time.
30 April 2016. We are underway by 0800 and hope to make Butler Island anchorage at ICW mile 396. That would make today a 10 hour day covering 60 miles. That is anchor down at 1800 which should no be too late.
We saw our first two AGLCA looper boats, Endoxi and Sassa, this morning. Both were proudly flying their burgees (flags). They both did a slow pass. Feels like we are looping now! About one hour later we were passed by Mascot, a gold looper. That means they had already completed the loop at least once. You can tell the gold loopers from the new loopers by the color of their burgee. Our burgee is white because we have not completed the loop. The loopers who have crossed their wake (returned to their starting place) have a gold burgee.
Much of this morning we have had a head wind. The currents have been favorable giving us a good push but I guess what the water gods giveth the wind gods taketh away.
At 1318 Tim has checked the fuel levels in the fuel tanks to see how we are doing. Good grief! Tim's fuel stick is showing we now have only 6 gallons of fuel in the port tank. We have 40 gallons in the starboard tank but it looks like it will use up all of the fuel in the port tank first and most likely leave us stranded. We cannot make it to our originally planned anchorage so we set our sites on Minim Creek, only 10 miles or so further. By 1504 our anchor was down and the engine was off. This is a large anchorage and we have it to ourselves but it is still early. Now comes the fun part, figuring out how to resolve the problem. Tim checks the fuel levels again as we prepare for this task. It is a bit frightening that the fuel level in the port tank is now down to 3 gallons. In order to get to the fuel tanks and the fuel lines we have to clear just about everything out of the space under the cockpit. Think of it as a crawl space under a house. Then Tim makes like a shape shifter to enter the small space and begin to work on the fuel line problem. We have a manual bilge pump in one of the cockpit lockers (a storage box for gear) and Tim thinks we can rig it up to create suction to pump the blockage out of the fuel line. After clamping and taping several hoses together we try the system. Tim has to hold the hose at one end to make sure it does not come undone while Suzanne pumps. Oh what a mess. We have used duct tape and the fuel has destroyed the sticky stuff on the tape. After another attempt using plastic and taping and clamping the plastic in place we try again. Eureka, we have success! We pumped out about 1/2 gallon of fuel and verified that there is a lot of gunk (a very technical term) in the bottom of our tanks. Now we have to see if the lines will run clear. We will give it a couple of hours and recheck the level of fuel in the tanks. If we have really been successful the tanks will have equalized. While we were busy with our fuel project 2 larger trawler type boats have anchored for the night. At about 1800 Tim checks the fuel level and there has been no change. While Suzanne prepares dinner Tim goes away to ponder the problem. A few minutes later he goes back into the space below the cockpit and returned looking a little sheepish. He says it helps if we reopen the valves. Two hours later Tim checks the fuel level again and the tanks have definitely begun to equalize. We will sleep well tonight.
1 May 2016. A quick check of our fuel tank status shows the tanks have continued to equalize overnight and the fuel stick is now showing approximately 20 gallons of diesel in the port tank and 24 gallons in the starboard tank. We are considering having the fuel polished. That would mean having the fuel sucked out of the tanks including (hopefully) most of the crud on the bottom of the tanks, run the fuel through a filter and put the good stuff back in the tanks. In the mean time, we are off.
We have decided to try and keep today's original destination, Osprey Marina. It is only 42 miles. This is the marina we had hoped to travel to last October before they got hit by a hurricane that flooded the area.
We are noticing the boat seems to be moving slowly through the water. Much more slowly than what we remember as our normal slow. We think after sitting still in the water for the past year in Charleston we must have a dirty bottom. We will check that out at Osprey as well.
It is raining by early afternoon and the clouds ahead look ominous. We hope to get into the marina before the bad weather hits. We are approaching the marina at 1645 with light drizzle but dark clouds. We got tucked into our berth and made it up to the marina office just as the thunder and lightning started. We will just sit up here and wait it out. It gave us an opportunity to talk with Miles, the dockmaster about having the fuel polished and getting a diver to have the bottom cleaned. It was time well spent. Miles made some suggestions about the fuel problem. We also got the number of a diver who cleans boat bottoms. Osprey Marina has a welcome bag for boaters coming through with some local goodies. This is a real treat. We took our goodie bag and headed back to the boat after the storm let up. Time to get a good shower and prepare dinner.
2 May 2016. Tim has changed the fuel filter and checked the fuel levels. We will now fill up our fuel tanks. Suzanne has talked with a diver but he is not available until tomorrow. We decide not to wait until tomorrow to leave. We can have the bottom cleaned at the next stop. After fueling we leave at 1230 for Calabash anchorage.
We enter the anchorage and have the anchor down at 1800. There a two other boats with us, both are sail boats. We are currently at high tide and Tim is not happy with the depth of the water that is under the boat as the tide is going out. We usually set two anchors off the bow in a "V" shape however today we are having difficulties getting a good angle. Tim rows the dinghy to the bow of the boat and Suzanne lowers the secondary anchor into the dinghy. Tim rows the anchor out and drops it in the water and rows back. At about 2200, just before turning in for the night we check our depth again to find that we only have 3.5 feet under the boat. We need 3 feet to float. We put the dinghy back in the water and Tim rowed out to retrieve the anchor and set it further out. With 120 feet of line out and the anchor set Suzanne begins to pull the line which pulls us further out into deeper water and resets the anchor. Now we can sleep well knowing we are out of danger of being aground when the tide goes out.
3 May 2016. We awoke this morning to a very dreary day. It is cool, cloudy, breezy and wet, but we are floating. Shortly after getting up it began to storm. We were still with the other boats in the anchorage. It looks like we are all waiting out the worst of the morning storms. One of the sail boats is the first to leave the anchorage. We notice the other sail boat sitting at an angle with the starboard hull more exposed. They had anchored too close to the shoe and were now aground with the tide going out. They have called TowBoat US to help them off the shallows but after about 40 minutes of working to float the boat (all the while the tide is going out) TowBoat US left them. They will be waiting for high tide to return in order to get off the bottom.
There is a break in the weather so we decide to raise the anchor. Within the hour the rains are back and visibility is significantly reduced so we will run a bit slower than our normal slow. We crossed into North Carolina this morning. Boy does that feel good. We are actually getting somewhere.
Shortly after the skies cleared up a bit and visibility was improving a TowBoat US boat passed us in hurry. About 10 minutes later a large trawler comes into our view. It is sitting slightly askew and the TowBoat guy is along side. It is the same TowBoat US captain we saw earlier this morning. We know this because the boat captain has a labrador retriever sitting in the bow. Clearly this is the day for boat groundings. Once again it appears the only hope for the boat that is aground is to wait for high tide.
We have the current against us again the first half of our day and the dirty bottom is really beginning to frustrate us. This is something we will look into when we arrive at Deep Point Marina, our next port. We have reached our slip and the engines are off at 1600. We met a guy in the parking lot who knew somebody that cleans boat bottoms and while we were standing there talking to him he calls Justin and gives the phone to Tim to set up a time to have the bottom cleaned. Justin informs Tim that we may have to wait until day after tomorrow since he just had an emergency prop replacement job come in and he was not certain how long it might take. We are both wondering if the emergency prop job is on that large trawler we saw aground earlier today. We have sight seeing plans for the next couple of days so that schedule was fine with us. Now it is time to clean up and have dinner.