Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week 45 contruction update

This is more a mini-update than anything else.  Progress continues nicely as can be seen in the attached pictures.  The first two are in the forward "basement" which is accessed through a hatch in the office.  Down there is the bow thruster, windless, anchor wash, and associated controls.  Also the fresh water pump, water heater, water maker, and emergency manual pump out for the black and gray water tanks.  It's basic utility space, plus a bunch of storage space.

The picture below is the hot water tank, and a little harder to see in the background and far left are the pump, screen filter, and distribution manifold.

Hot water heater

The water makers get installed in different places on different boats.  The basement is a common location, but frequently they are installed in the laz as well.  I opted for the basement, and here you can see the major components.   This actually isn't what I had requested and we are checking with the yard to see why they did it this way.  I had requested that both the membranes (the black tube assembly) and the main control unit (white think if the foreground with the filters on it) be hung from the bulkhead.  I was trying to keep this shelf clear and available for storage rather than have it taken up by the water maker.  Maybe there is a good reason, or maybe the request just didn't get to the right guy.  We will see.  Below the shelf are the manual pumps for the gray and black water tanks.

Water maker, but not where I requested it be installed

In the galley I see the oven has been installed and to the right of it I see the trash compactor is installed.  It's harder to tell, but I think I might see the dish washer handle across from the trash compactor.  You can see the granite back splash and the port light installed straight ahead.  Over the port light is the space where the microwave/convection over goes.  You can't see it here, but it's in a box in the salon so I suspect it's ready to go in shortly.

Galley appliances in place

Up in the pilot house there is now a giant pile of wires that need to be terminated.  They probably all go to the breaker panel, and we just finalized that about a week ago which explains why the wires all all in waiting.  The guy in the doorway appears to be working on the phantom screens.  Between our boat and 6058 which just shipped, the yard has perfected a nice wood hide-away for the screens.  There was very little room, but they appear to have done a really nice job figuring it out.

Pilot house pile of wires waiting to be hooked up.

On the forward deck the anchor pulpit is complete, the windless in installed, the cleats are installed, the hawsepipes are installed, and the anchor locker hatch is installed.  Lookin good.

Forward deck

In the cockpit the big addition is the cabinet between the stairs and the doorway.  Also, if you have really sharp eyes, you can look down through the hatch and to the right and catch a glimpse of the main DC switch panel which has appeared since the last pictures.


That's it for the mini-update.  Stay tuned, and hopefully the comments section below is working correctly now.

Converting a Mac Mini to 12VDC

Back in this post building a navigation computer, I talked about the Mac Mini that I set up to run our primary navigation software, Coastal Explorer.  I used the setup for our entire trip from Boston to Florida and it worked great.  Laurie even said "I like this.  I don't mind using this program" when she started trying Coastal Explorer.  That's a pretty good endorsement, I think.

Here it is, running on the Grand Banks with one of the 24" daylight monitors.

One thing I wanted to do was get the Mini running off 12VDC rather than 120VAC.  Even with an inverter, 120VAC is less dependable than DC battery power.  Plus, getting rid of the Mini's power supply is another step towards greater efficiency, not to mention the losses in the inverter.  In the case of the Mini, I don't think it's a lot of power savings, but every bit counts.  It's also nice to have one less piece of equipment (the inverter) that the navigation system depends on for operation.

It turns out that the power supply that's built into the Mini produces 12VDC which couldn't be more convenient.  A little web searching uncovered a number of step by step instructions on how to perform a power-supply-ectomy.  Here's the example that I used Mac Mini Power-Supply-Ectomy

Now, before you go rushing off to do this yourself, a few words of caution.  You will be digging into your Mini, pretty much tearing it down to its bones, cutting wires, soldering wires, then putting it all back together.  Unless you are comfortable doing such things, don't try this.  Or at least don't come crying to me if you mess it up.  This is very much a you-are-on-your-own project.  Plus, it will surely void the warranty on the Mini, so there is clear risk in undertaking this.

OK, you have been warned....

I won't repeat the directions, but after an hour or two I had a Mini with a pig tail wire and connector hanging out of the place where the power cord used to attach.  I used a locking power connector from Radio Shack so it can't accidentally get unplugged which I think is a risk with the power jack shown in the directions above.

It works great, and you can't argue with the power consumption.  It only draws between 1.5 and 3A @ 12VDC depending on what it's doing.  Most of the time it's closer to 1.5 than 3.  I turned it on when I left Gloucester, and never turned it off until we left the boat in Florida.  Flawless operation the whole time.  Leaving it on not only gives full access to the nav computer for route planning, weather checking, tides and current, etc, but it also serves as an anchor alarm.  When not in use I just dimmed the monitor all the way down and that cuts it's power draw down to nothing as well.  Then, with a quick turn of the brightness knob, it's back at full brightness anytime I need it.

It's been great to be able to try out all this stuff before the new boat comes, both to confirm it works as expected, and to iron out the inevitable gotchas.  So far this part has been a great success.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Solar Power?

A number of people have asked if I've consider installing solar power on the boat.  The answer is Yes, but it's still evolving.

Initially I was planning to install solar panels right from the get-go.  According to my calculations, solar panels would allow the boat to remain powered indefinitely at anchor, unoccupied, with the fridge on but the freezer off.  And with the boat occupied, which means higher power use, I figured I could cut generator time in half if not better.

However, I have subsequently learned what sort of "idle" load power draw actual N55 and N60 owners are experiencing, and it is significantly higher than my calculations.  Like 5-6x higher.  With that kind of power load solar will have no meaningful impact and is likely not worth the effort.  But I haven't given up yet.  Here's more detail for those who are interested.

With any power system there are two key parts to the equation; how much power you are consuming, and how much power you are generating.  Let's look at the generation part first.

On most boats, and the N60 is no exception, there is very limited space suitable for solar panels.  You need an area that is large, flat, and has minimal shadowing over the course of the day.  On the N60, the only suitable location is on top of the flybridge hardtop.  With a little pre-planning, there is room on the hardtop for about 750 watts of solar panels.  The pre-planning involves keeping antennas, radar scanners, and other gadgets out of the way, including making sure there are minimal shadows cast over the panels.

Shadows are a big no-no with solar.  There is the obvious loss of light, but it's much worse than that.  For a variety of technical reasons, a little bit of shading caused a large loss of power output.  There are a few things that can be done to mitigate the problem, but it remains a key objective in locating panels and surrounding equipment.  The 6' radar scanner is a key challenge since it is located just aft of the panels.  Depending on where the antenna stops in it's rotation, it could be casting a big shadow.  But I lucked out on this one.  It turns out that the Simrad 6' radar has a park feature and can be set to part in any desired position.  Nice!  Other scanners that I'm familiar with can't do that and the antenna just stops where it stops.

With 750W of panels, the next question is to figure out how much power they will produce on a daily basis.  The rated output of 750W is based on full sunlight.  As we all know, the sun comes up gradually over the day then goes down gradually.  Plus, it's not sunny every day.  Sounds complicated, doesn't it?  Well, it is, but fortunately, other people have figured it out and distilled it down to a simple calculation.  The National Renewable Energy Lab has maps that provide the equivalent number of hours of full sun light across the US.  And they even take into account historic weather patterns.  That said, boats move around so the location isn't fixed.  But in general they tend to follow better weather which will yield better sun exposure.  On the down side, panels should be tilted towards the sun (or close to it) for max output, and that's not practical on a boat, so they get placed horizontally.  If you are near the equator or during summer, flat is just fine.  But if you are at a high latitude in the local winter, performance will be impacted.  As you can see, there are lots and lots of variables, but the NREL numbers provide a really good estimation point, and in my experience have been quite good.  But even with a good number, output will still vary widely due to weather.  That's where having enough battery power to carry you thorough is important.

So what's the answer?  I've used 5hrs of equivalent full sun per day.  That gives 3750 watt-hours of power per day.  But wait, it's not that good.  The panel rating is under optimal conditions, plus there are losses in the power conversion and storage process.  I generally like to assume the whole process will be 80% efficient, so that 3750Wh turns into 3000 Wh, or 3 kwh.

Now let's look at the power loads.  First, there are a bunch of things that are just out of the question with solar.  High powered devices like air conditioning, water heating, ovens, clothes driers, etc. are not even wired up to be run off battery power.  They can only run when the generator is running or there is shore power,  But we can run everything else off batteries via an inverter.

On our Grand Banks, our at-anchor power draw is between 100-200W.  The lower end is with lights etc off and us asleep, but the anchor light is on along with the fridge and freezer plus basic electronics for an anchor alarm and weather.  The higher number additionally has a few lights on and us watching TV.  If we assume that our average over 24hrs is 150w, that's 3600wh which is about 20% more than the panels can produce.  That means solar will reduce generator run time, but not eliminate it.  But it will cut it down significantly.   Instead of creating a battery drain of 3600wh each day, we will only drain them 600wh because we are getting 3000wh from solar.  We could run for 6 days on the same battery drain as 1 day without solar.  That's pretty good.

Furthermore, if the boat were sitting without us on it, but with the fridge and freezer running, we would only consume 2400wh per day and the solar would carry the load day in and day out.

Based on this I was ready to install solar right away.  But then I talked to some Nordhavn owners.  They report idle power loads of 750-1000W.  Wow, that's a LOT more power, and means that solar would not make an appreciable dent in the battery drain, and consequently not reduce generator time significantly.

My first question is "why the big difference?".  Part of it is refrigeration.  The N60 has more cubic feet of refrigerated space, and that takes more power.  I originally made my calculations based on the Energy Star estimated power consumption for the fridge and freezer.  In the past I have found their estimates to be very accurate.  But maybe they are off in this case.

Also, the N60 has halogen lights which are pigs.  The Grand Banks did too, and I replaced them all with LED replacement bulbs.  It cut the power draw by a factor of 10.  On the Nordhavn, turning on the Salon and Galley lights is 300W.  That's part of the problem.  But until I'm actually on the boat I can't really figure it all out with any certainty.  I remain optimistic that I can get the power draw down to a point where solar can make a difference, but I'm going to see where it shakes out before installing solar.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week 44 Construction Update

It's been a long time since I've done an update on the N60 build.  We are now at week 44 of a theoretical 52 week build., so we should be 80% done.  Lots has been done, but we certainly aren't 80% done.  Regardless, it's still fun to see all the progress.  One reason I haven't blogged for a long time is that the progress has been steady, but visually very subtle.  In each set of pictures I can spot another piece of teak that has been installed, some more paneling, a porthole, a mooring cleat.  But it doesn't make for a very exciting blog entry.  But now the interior is largely complete and machinery is starting to get installed, so it should be worthy of a new post.

We'll let pictures be our guide.  By the way, if you click on a picture it will launch a viewer where you can see all the pictures in a larger format.  For old guys like me, it's much easier to see that way.

We finally have machinery.  It's interesting to see how completely they built the boat before installing any of the engines.  In my case the engines must have been lifted in through the salon door and lowered into the engine room.  On another 60, they had dry fit the boat deck, but removed it install the engines then put it back on.  With other boats the engines have gone in before the boat deck ever went on.   My guess is that nobody wanted to fork out the $$ for the engines any sooner than necessary, so they were held back until the last minutes.  After-all, we are all still recovering economically.

Wing engine on the left and generator on the right

It's an imposing view looking up at the bow.   You can clearly see the anchor pulpit and rollers.  More subtle are the two holes where the tow eye and bash plate will mount, and the bow thruster which is now installed.
Looking WAY up at the bow

From the stern you can see several new additions.  First is the swim platform extension giving about 3 feet more space to move about.  And you can see the holes along the edge where the railings will fit in.  It appears better in a later picture, but the boat deck extension ha also been installed, though still supported by 2x4s until the stainless railings are installed.  And last, you can see the curved staircase going up to the boat deck

Swim platform extension, boat deck stairs, and boat deck extension

Once in the cockpit, you can see the stairs more clearly.  Under the stairs you can see an opening which is for the propane locker.  The salon door has also been installed.  It's a dutch door with solid lower section and glass upper.
Stairs and salon dutch door

The salon is largely complete.  Lots of it is wrapped up for protection, but all the woodwork is done.  They have subsequently been removed, but all the drawers and cabinet doors have been finished too.  On the ceiling you can see the teak dividers between all the ceiling panels.  The panels have all been fitted, and subsequently removed for upholstering (I think that's the right term).  You might also be able to spot the grab rails on the ceiling.  In a bigger space like this it's important to always have something you can hold on to.

Salon looking forward

Looking aft you can get a good sense of the teak color which we are very pleased with.

Salon, looking aft

Looking at the starboard side, this is where the Ekornes chairs will go.  We passed on the models that normally come with the boat and bought different ones.  The ones we selected are a bit bigger and better accommodate our portly figures.  I actually just received them a week or so ago and they look great.
Salon, starboard side

And here is the salon port side.  The settee is on the left and you can see the counter/pass through to the galley on the right.
Salon, port side

Here's the galley with the cabinets all done, granite counters installed (though covered) includign the granite back splash behind the stove.


Cabinetry in the master stateroom is similarly complete.  Once again, the drawers have all been fitted and subsequently removed.  The same is true of the cover panels for the bed.  You can see that the porthole is installed as well.
Master Stateroom

Here's the stateroom  looking port and aft.
Master stateroom

Last we saw the master head it was raw fiberglass and some rough framing.  Now we have finished teak panels and cabinets with granite counter tops and sink.  You can also see signs of plumbing installed in the cabinet.
Master head

The master show has come a long way too.  The granite floor and bench are installed and the surrounds are being finished.  You might also notice that we are looking through a hung glass shower door.
Master shower

The office space is looking good.  There is a storage locker on the right forward, and the desk aft.  Through the doorway is the forward head.
Office looking forward

And on the port side across from the office is the guest stateroom.

Guest stateroom

The guest head is looking good too.  The woodwork is done and the granite is installed.  You can also get a glimpse of the folding shower door on the left.
Guest head
Now you can see into the guest shower, including the seat and storage cabinet.

Guest shower

Up in the pilot house the settee is complete and most of the windows are installed and trimmed out.  No table yet, but I'm sure that will go it last thing.

Pilot house settee
The captains bunk is a small but very functional cabin right behind the pilot house.  Some people call it the "tree house" because of it's high perch in the boat.

Captain's cabin off the pilot house

The day head is also right off the pilot house.  The port light is in along with the sink and counter top, but still no toilet.
Day head

The business end of the pilot house is all built but still has nothing installed.  I think this guy is wiring up the wiper motors.  The actual console goes pretty much where he is standing.  It is all built and was visible in some older pictures, but had been removed, presumably to have the padded material covering installed.
Business end of the pilot house

Still up in the pilot house, you can just see through the window and spot the opened door.  All teh windows appear to be installed except for the curved corner pieces.

Pilot house

Up on the boat deck you can see the round port light in the head, and the FRP surrounding the lower part of the stack.  It's the part dead center with the grey upper and bottom.

Boat deck looking forward

Now, looking aft on the boat deck you can get a better view of the extension.  It's the part furthest away that doesn't have the brownish protective cover over it.  It really adds a lot of space up top, and creates nice shade in the cockpit.

Boat deck looking aft at the extension

Down in the utility room there are signs of the stabilizer actuators being installed.  You can see the hole in the hull and the bolt holes all around it.  The actuator mounting plates are below on the floor.

Stabilizers being installed

Back in the engine room we have the main engine under the blanket and you can see the fuel management system hanging on the wall to the left.  There are a few things about the fuel management system that don't make sense to me and I'm trying to get it figured out with PAE.  I'll have more on that once I confirm my understanding of how it works.

Main engine and fuel management system

Here's the main engine from behind with the transmission attached.  The darker surface at teh end of the transmission is not where the prop shaft hooks up - that's further down and out of view.  We are looking at the PTO coupling where the hydraulic pump connects.  I think that's a clutch to engage/disengage the pump.

Main engine rear view with gear box

Lots has happened in the lazarette.  First off, the deck has finally been lowered into place.  For months is was suspended from the ceiling until the running gear below it could be installed.  But now it's all in place and you can see the AC units have been installed and are being hooked up.  The overhead lights are also installed and operational both here and in the engine room.  I've been passing drawings back and forth with PAE to finalize the layout of equipment in this space.  90% of it will go it its "standard" location, but there are a few things that I want to move fro better service access.  Yours truly is the chief engineer and bilge rat, so I care a lot about service access.  On some of the boat that I've seen, access is impossible without removing a bunch of equipment.  There is just no need for that if you plan it out carefully to begin with.

Lazarette, looking aft

Looking forward you can see the base sections of the battery boxes on either side.  They will get loaded up with 8D house batteries and a few 4D start batteries.  There is a ton of space down here, but I've seen it fill up very quickly on a number of boats.  I think the key is to keep it organized.

Lazarette looking forward

And there you have it.  We always have a list of issues and typically they are pretty small.  Now is no exception.  I think the biggest thing is getting the equipment placement sorted out, especially the diesel heater and its exhaust run  up to and out through the transom.  We are also finalizing the wiring diagrams so the rest of the wiring can get going.

OK, that's all for now.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below and I'll answer as best I can.

St Augustine

Welcome to Florida!  Cumberland Island is the last stretch of coast in Georgia, so it was only 30 minutes or so after departure that we crossed into Florida.  Our first stop was St Augustine which is unlike any other place in Florida that I've ever visited.  It has history, architecture, an old fort, and lots of charm.  In contrast, most of Florida has emerged over the past 50 years.  St Augustine is actually the oldest city in North America, though not the oldest in the US since it didn't become pat of the States until Florida became a territory in 1822 and a State in 1845.  We spend a full day wondering around and sampling the food which is always welcome.

Skipping ahead a bit we ended up at anchor just south of Cape Canaveral.  We could see the VAB and launch gantries off in the distance, and were reminded of the launch we saw back in 1985.  It was right at dawn, and one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen.  The sad part is that after the launch completed and the base opened for visitors, we went for a tour and saw Challenger on the launch pad getting prepped for its ill-fated mission about a week later.

The next day after we got underway there were non-stop security calls on the VHF warning about keep-out zones for a pending launch later that morning.  And we were right there.  I jotted down the launch time with great plans to turn and look behind us at the appointed time, but guess what?  I completely forgot and the darn thing took off right behind us.  My brother said he could see it from New Jersey, and I missed it in the rear view mirror.  Oh well.

We finally arrived pretty much as planned at our pause-point in Palm Beach Gardens.  Through a friend we leased a privately owned slip in a condo-marina which has worked out great.

Later in the week we caught a flight home for the holidays.  It took 6 weeks door-to-door to get to Florida in the boat, and 6 hrs to get home.  That's cruising, and we love it :-)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beaufort, Ossabow, Cumberland Island.

Next stop was Beaufort - actually a little south in Port Royal where we stopped for a quick overnight at a marina then continued on in the morning.  That evening we anchored in a really nice and remote tributary along Ossabow Island.

Sunset at Ossabow Island

Then the next morning it was off the Cumberland Island where we planned to stay for two full days (three nights).

Cumberland Island is an amazing place, originally the playground of the Carnegies, and now mostly a National Park with a few remaining private homes of Carnegie's descendents.  We explored the various ruins of the original mansion, walked for miles on the beach, and had a tremendous meal at the Greyfield Inn which is one of the private properties and still owned and run by a great-grandson of the original owner.  It's one of the most pristine landscapes we have seen in a long time.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my

Cumberland Island Beach

Patterns in the Sand

Georgetown to Charleston

From Myrtle Beach, our next major stop was Charleston where we planned to spend 2 nights so we'd get a full day to explore the city, and it sure was worth it.

The mid-way point traveling from Myrtle Beach was Georgetown, SC.  It looked like a nice place, but after a week in Myrtle Beach for Laurie and several days in Ft Lauderdale for me, anchoring out is a remote place was high on both our lists.  We continued  a bit south of Georgetown and anchored in the North Santee River for a quiet evening.

The next day we continued on arriving at Charleston early afternoon.  The most popular marina appears to be over on the west side of town (Charleston is a north-south peninsula), but when I called they didn't have any room for us, so we ended up at another place over on the east side of town.  Well, it was quite fortuitous after all.  The whole downtown area of Charleston is on the East side just a couple of blocks from the marina, and what a great city it is.  I know this isn't news to many people, but it was our visit and Charleston definitely lived up to it's reputation.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wrightsville, Southport, Myrtle Beach, and FLIBS

The march continues on.  From Wrightsville we continued south through a cut and into Cape Fear.  There's another great name, due to some early explorers who got in there, couldn't get out, and feared they would become shipwrecked.  But it wasn't particularly fearful the day we crossed and soon we were back in the confines of the ICW.  It was a short day with an overnight in Southport just at the southern end of Cape Fear.

The next day completed our trip to Myrtle Beach where Laurie would stay with the boat for a few days while I flew down to Ft Lauderdale for the boat show, formally known as the Ft Lauderdale In-water Boat Show, or FLIBS for short.  I had lots of vendors to visit and things to sort out relative to commissioning our Nordhavn, none of which was particularly interesting to Laurie, so she hung out on the boat and got a bunch of projects done.

FLIBS was exhausting, but a success all around.  I got a life raft ordered, figured out boarding ladders and dinghy chocks, a dinghy swim ladder, and a whole host of other things.  PAE also hosted a gathering of Nordhavn owners which was great fun, and both a chance to catch up with people we already know, and meet a few new people.  All in all, the trip was a success.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lots to catch up on, Roanoke Island to Wrightsville, NC

OK, I have a confession to make.  The last blog entry had us exiting the Dismal Swamp and having just crossed into North Carolina.  We are now actually in St Augustine, FL.  I have a lot to catch up on.

After entering the Albemarle Sound, we headed east towards the barrier islands - Kitty Hawk  and Nags Head in particular.  The actual ICW goes more to the west and cuts through the Alligator river and canal.  Originally we were thinking we'd go visit Kitty Hawk, but then realized it would involve renting a car, so we decided against it in the end.  We ended up at a Marina on Roanoke Island which is the island you pass through to reach the barrier islands where Kitty Hawk and Nags Head are.

One thing we were warned about, and I'm not sure if it's real or a wives tale, is that crabbers in the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds are allowed to (and do) use stainless wire between their floats and traps.  I've got line cutters on our running gear to deal with any errant encounters, but wire would make quite the mess.  Needless to say, we kept a careful watch for floats, but fortunately there were not very many.

The next day we made a straight run - at least as straight as the shallow water allowed - across the Pamlico Sound and rejoined the ICW at the Adams River/Canal.  Just inside the river we found a very nice spot to anchor for the night.

The next day we had some decisions to make.  The first was whether or not to spend a day in Beaufort, NC which is at the other end of the Adams Creek/Canal, or to bypass and keep moving.  One constraint was that the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show was approaching, and I had booked a room and planned to attend.  We needed to get to a spot with reasonable transportation so I could catch a flight down, and a spot where Laurie could enjoy the 5 days or so that I'd be away.  Myrtle Beach looked like the spot with a good marina, regular flights, and all the goods and services that one might need.  A few quick calculations made it clear that we needed to keep moving.  In fact, we needed to make up some time.  So the decision was made to bypass Beaufort, and put it on the list of places to visit on our return.  The next decision was whether to run inside the ICW, or go outside down to Wrightsville.  Along the ICW is Camp LeJeune, and they do regular live firing exercises across the ICW out into the ocean.  They shut down the ICW for their playtime, and there is a large section of the shoreline that is off limits at all times.  This one became another easy decision.  We headed outside, cranked up the speed, and went all the way to Wrightsville.  Along the way we encountered two warships, one hanging out just inside the keep-out zone, and a carrier off on the horizon.  Although we didn't hear any booms, I can only think that all the activity signaled playtime and that the ICW would have been shut down for a few hours.  And as a bonus, we were rewarded with absolutely glassy seas the whole way down to Wrightsville.

I hope you are enjoying this, and feel free to comment or ask questions in the "Comments" space below.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Dismal Swamp, and things that go bump in the night.

The Dismal Swamp.  You have to admit, that's a great name.  It's actually a canal that cuts through from the Chesapeake Bay south of Norfolk and comes out in the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.  It's narrow, shallow, quite beautiful, and full of things to hit along the way.

Lock entering the Dismal Swamp
All I could think of as we slipped by it's banks of overhanging trees was "the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees".  Does anyone remember that line from "The Elephant's Child", one of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories"? I used to read that all the time as a kid.

Great, grey green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees

On paper the route isn't too bad with 8-10' depths.  That's much more than the Rideau Canal where we traveled last summer and, by the way, never hit bottom.  But that theoretical depth doesn't account for all the crap on the bottom that seems to have crept in and died.  I suppose it's submerged branches and the like, but we went bump no less than a dozen times.  And every time the depth sounder continued to show 7-8' (we draw a little under 4').

Some people can just brush it off when they run aground or hit something, but I just can't get over it very easily.  To me the boat is supposed to be floating, not hitting the bottom.  We met a guy in Deltaville who apparently wasn't phased at all by running aground or by other gross navigational errors.  He crossed lake Ontario from Toronto to Oswego, and managed to arrive at the NY shoreline a whopping 70 miles from Oswego.  That's pretty far off course for a crossing that's probably only about 100 miles long.  But it didn't bother him a bit.  Then he told me one story after another about the rest of his trip where he ran aground, got towed, then ran aground again and got towed.  He must have grounded (and I mean hard aground, you aren't going anywhere aground) a half dozen times, all while saying how easy boat navigation is.  Go figure.

Welcome to North Carolina

Anyway, we made it through the Dismal Swamp with no damage - just a lot of cuss words.  I'm glad we did it.  After all, this trip is about seeing the inland parts of the east coast.  But I'll be happy to go around it next time.

Our trip through was rewarded by a wonderful night at anchor off Goat Island in the Pasquotank River which is the outflow of the canal.  Fall is coming too - we had frost on the fore deck in the morning.

Beautiful Morning off Goat Island

Frost on the fore deck this morning

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Norfolk the Navy town

Today we left Deltaville and headed across the south bay to Norfolk, VA, home to one of the largest US Naval bases.  Along the way we heard some interesting things on the radio.  There were two Korean war ships in the bay, apparently in for refueling.  That's not something you see every day, at least not where we are from.  We could see them off in the distance, but never got very close.

As we approached Norfolk, one of the US war ships (that's what they call themselves - War Ship 72, or War Ship 66) was alerting everyone that he was departing at 2:30 and to be on the lookout.  Well, just as we were getting ready to turn into the Elizabeth River, out came War Ship D72.  I tried hailing him on 13 (the standard bridge-to-bridge channel that all ships in the area use to coordinate passages), but they didn't respond.  I just decided to give him a wide berth and continue on our way.  A little later I heard War Ship 66 trying to hail him on 13 as well with no response, so I didn't feel so bad about being ignored.  99% of the time ships respond right away and happily coordinate passes.  For whatever reason 72 wasn't monitoring 13.

War Ship 72 leaving Norfolk Naval Base as we head down the Elizabeth River

Air Craft Carrier 77 - George Bush

Stealthy looking ships of some sort

Now THAT's a Cargo Ship.  I'll bet you could drive a sub inside and take it for a ride.

And a Hospital ship to clean up the mess.

Going through Norfolk and the surrounding towns, there is no mistake who butters the bread.  The Navy.  I've never seen so many ships in various states of refurbishment.   Have you ever seen an air craft carrier hauled out of the water?  We did.  And it was one of three carriers that were there at the time.  Plus a Hospital ship, and a huge rear-loading cargo ship.  Check out the pictures.

A bit later we experienced the 1% of commercial captains who are not so cooperative.  We were gaining on a tow and an unladen tug working their way up the Elizabeth river and I wanted to pass them, so I called and asked to pass on their starboard side.  They said fine but as I was getting closer they started turning to starboard, and soon after got on the radio asking where I was going and said I should pass their port side.  Umm?  I'm not sure where the miss-communication happened, but it did, and highlights the need to always be alert.

A few more miles down the river was the Top Rack Marina just past where the Dismal Swamp turns off.  We stayed there for the night, ready to transit the Dismal Swamp the next day.