The Way Down

November 5, 2021

It has been a long time since there has been a meaningful post, but I think it is time for an update; a placeholder on the journey of Home Free. The thing that brings that about is really innocuous . . . I have run out of pages in my (custom made) log book, so I need to use this as a way to jog my memory in the future.

My friend Paul, along with his wife Michelle have joined me on the trip south this year. Unfortunately, due to COVID and professional commitments, Jinhee was not able to join us on the trip South. Paul helped me move the boat from Atlantic Yacht Basin to North Palm Beach last year as well, this year the schedule is a bit more erratic, but Paul and Michelle will help me get the boat to St. Augustine at least.

Before my crew arrived, I went through a long list of boat checks and preparation, including all of the engine checks, electrical system checks, steering, davit, thrusters, and of course the ever present cleaning. The cleaning was made better when Paul and Michelle arrived. The exterior cleaning that normally takes me almost a full day, was done in two hours! Thank you.

The only interesting tidbit was trying to locate appropriate coolant for my engines. The wing engine and generator use a different coolant than my main engine, and finding the one that was already being used was a bit of a task. I learned more about engine coolants in two days than I ever thought I would know. The key issue is that no two coolants should be mixed, that hybrid and organic coolants are generally bad for the coolant pumps (seals) and thus I should be carrying a lot more than I do for replenishment. (Peak Fleet Charge – pink in the wing and gen; still using Coolgard II in the main, but should flush and change soon to reduce damage to the seals).

On Saturday, we moved the boat out to a face dock to get fuel. Fuel is substantially more expensive than it was last year, and a fill up was nearly $5,000. Perhaps it will last the year. We also stocked up on groceries and filled water tanks.

We untied from the dock at AYB on October 31, and headed south, with an intention to transit the ICW to Beaufort, then head off shore on a straight run to St. Augustine. Unfortunately the weather is not as agreeable as last year and with new crew (Michelle), we have opted to stay closer to land.

One other aspect of this run is that I have run out of pages in my (custom made, in other words, it’s my own fault) log books. Therefore, I am boring any readers left with some details not usually included in my blog, that help me keep track of Home Free (keeping it at the very bottom).

I haven’t been very good at taking photos, but I have a good drone video of Home Free running in the Alligator River on Monday, and a great image from today, of Eagles looking out over the ICW. They are below.

Running in the Alligator river
Eagles Looking over the ICW at Myrtle Beach (there were dozens)

Due to the weather, we have been running inside (on the ICW) far more than I would like. It takes a lot of attention and the risks multiply quickly with moving objects (boats) and immovable objects (bridges, shoals and shores) but for the comfort of the crew we will take this calm approach.

Today we were boarded by the coast guard who wanted to check our safety gear. As one might expect, we passed with flying colours. It was my first experience with a coast guard boarding and the process was smooth, friendly and I appreciate that they are ‘protecting’ us from ourselves.

As the Weather bomb hits us in the next two days, we will judge our progress based on what we learn with each weather report. Certainly we won’t be travelling on the open ocean for the next two days, but moving along the ICW may be possible.

The coming Weather bomb . . .

I will update more in the coming days.

The basics for the log book . . .

  • Oct. 31 – Atlantic Yacht Basin to the top of the Alligator River
    • About 10 hours, 22.3 gallons of fuel
    • Clear, with about 10 knots of wind
    • Anchored
    • Chart Plotter 1 is failing. Appears to be memory failure on the device itself. Re-subscribed to Navionics and updated charts. Dramatically reduced the amount of information in the chart plotter to reduce the reliance on memory. Didn’t completely solve the problem (device continues to reset randomly), but it is much, much better now.
  • Nov. 1 – Alligator River to Belhaven
    • About 8 hours, 13 gallons of fuel
    • Good Weather again, but too cloudy to enjoy the stars
    • Anchored just south of town, launched the dinghy to walk through town and buy some ice cream. Restaurants were all closed (a Monday).
    • Replaced current meter on 12V electrical panel (failed)
  • Nov. 2 – Belhaven to Beaufort
    • About 9 hours, 19 gallons of fuel
    • Good weather again.
    • Anchored off of Sugarloaf Island. Launched the dinghy and went to Moorehead city for some seafood.
  • Nov. 3 – Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach
    • About 11 hours, 24 gallons of fuel. Departed at first light
    • Winds had started to pick up so we were leery, but no significant waves (about 2-3 feet mostly)
    • Arrived at Wrightsville Beach just before dark and had to anchor twice to get adequate space, in heavy currents. Ate on the boat. Replaced incandescent bulbs with LED in pilothouse and cabins. Most of the boat is now LED
  • Nov. 4 – Wrightsville Beach to North Myrtle Beach (Barefoot Marina)
    • About about 9.5 hours underway, 23 gallons of fuel
    • We tied up at a dock (nowhere to anchor in this section of the ICW) and walked around to eat at Crooked Hammock Brewery. We then walked a long, long way to Food Lion to restock the fridge. Due to lack of masks we couldn’t use Uber to get back and instead walked. It was 9C, so very, very chilly.
  • Nov. 5 – Barefoot Marina to Georgetown
    • About 6 hours underway, about 13 gallons of fuel. Departed at 9am
    • This was a nice section of the ICW, with lots of water and modest traffic. Had to run the gen a lot to make heat. Daily high was 14C. It’s cold. We may be stuck here for a while as there is a very cold, very windy system coming down from the North West and it is going to bring a lot of rain, wind and misery. No going outside.
    • We were stopped for an inspection by the Coast Guard at Georgetown. Very friendly, no infractions (first use of the Waste Management Plan).
    • Log: 4516; Fuel: 3104; Hours: 3443
  • Nov. 6 – Georgetown to Charleston
    • About 8.5 hours underway, about 18 gallons of fuel. Departed around 9am
    • Another picturesque section of the ICW, but because it is mostly just swamp connected to the ocean, the tides were making the route difficult. It was cold and rainy the entire day with winds from 8 knots to 30 knots, dependent on location/protection. There was more fuel used by running the generator for heat through parts of the day.
    • The ICW is very busy and docks are nearly impossible to get. We are anchored just off the western side of Charleston, before the entrance to the ICW. It remains bumpy with 25 knot winds and lots of rain. The anchor is in 25′ of water with a LOT of other boats anchored waiting out the gale.
    • We were following ‘Adrift at Last’ (a Selene 52 I think) and they grounded just in front of us and just 5 miles before Charleston harbour. We offered assistance, but they were simply going to await the tide change (it was almost low tide).
    • Gale warning in effect, Georgia thru South Carolina.
    • Log: 4360; Fuel: 3122; Hours: 3452
  • Nov. 7 – Charleston to Hilton Head
    • About 11 hours underway and about 30 gallons of fuel. Departed at sun up.
    • The gale was blowing full on and it was raining but we raised anchor and got underway expecting a long day. It was longer than that still. The twists and turns of the ICW made it about 70 nm and we ran the engine pretty hard much of the day to make distance both against and with the current.
    • By the end of the day the sun was out and the wind had dropped. We arrived at Skull Creek before dark but with a heavy current. After scoping out the docks and current for about 20 minutes we decided to move into the slip bow first. I was not able to swing the boat and so went in stern first. The slip was just about 2 feet wider than Home Free (with fenders it was narrower than the boat) and so I had to squeeze the boat in. A good day to have crew!
    • Log: 4616; Fuel: 3152; Hours 3464
Birds Playing Behind the Boat (Looking for Food)
  • Nov. 8/9 – Hilton Head (Skull Creek) to Saint Augustine (Mooring)
    • About 24 hours total time; about 45 gallons of fuel.
    • Departed Skull Creek around 10 am with some more food and full of water. Heading off shore.
    • Checked water maker operation and all is well with the water maker.
    • The weather was very cooperative. I decided to exit between HH and Tybee Island, not realizing that the depth was limited. Due to high tide, we had 18 feet of water, but that exit should be treated with caution.
    • Waves had mostly dissipated near shore and the current helped push us down the coast, so we actually slowed down so we didn’t arrive in Saint Augustine before sunrise. The waves became more significant past Jacksonville and slowed us a bit.
    • Saw my fist live billfish jumping out of the water! Probably a marlin. Very cool.
    • Overall an easy run with good weather. Great sunset, beautiful stars and no significant issues.
    • Stack blower failed, but I ‘pushed’ it a bit and sprayed a lot of WD-40 on it, it got restarted and worked through the trip. Spare is already on board, I may swap it out before next journey.
    • Log: 4725; Fuel: 3197.4; Hours: 3489

What a Sunset – The Moon and a planet are in the top left

Wednesday, Nov 10 – on a ball at saint Augustine. Paul and I started installing solar panel wiring. Put the wiring down the stack and ran along ceiling of engine room. Drilled through plenum on port side stern to get wires into lazarette, right beside cable panel. Used a #4 3/8 ring terminal. Split loom on wires. Panels can be left on deck or later put on the Bimini. Lots of cable.

Thursday November 11 – completed solar install (at least the hard bits, no final panel install yet, but I’m generating power). Guest head has failed. Paul and I are in the middle of pulling that apart and will clean or replace hoses on Friday. Prepare for a dirty job…. Dinner with Sylvain and Claire at Harrys. Also preparing for SSCA presentation.

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