Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sailing on a Mountain Top

Not too long after moving to Asheville, I was pleasantly surprised to find a small lake, actually a cooling lake for a power plant, that sported a tiny marina filled with sailboats. The sizes of boats range from about 9 feet up to a 30 footer, but most are in the 20 foot range. I went down and met the folks who were holding a bi-weekly regatta where a bunch of boats would race a pre-determined course on the lake. After speaking with the "Commodore", or the sailing club president, he let me use one of the old club boats that had been forgotten if I cleaned it up and made it sailable. Didn't take more than a day before I had the O'day 17 on the water. It's a nice old sloop that sails well in most wind up to about 15 knots. It is a lot of fun in a good breeze, you often get the rails wet when pointing high into the wind. It's also been really good sailing practice as the O'day, albeit half the size of the Cal and about 9,000 pounds lighter, are both sloops and work basically the same exact way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weather Window

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding when to leave. Per the schedule that has been laid out, it will take close to two days to get to the the Ocracoke Inlet, our gateway to the Atlantic. Although it might be OK in the bay, the ocean wind and waves are a whole other story. I use a few weather sites to help make these decisions. One is, It shows the winds down the coast for up to a week out and has been very accurate. For everything else, I use the NOAA site,, to see whats going on as far as wave heights, precipitation and tides. They too are about as accurate as you can get.

So the initial planning was to leave on Monday, November 30. If you look at the attached wind chart, you can see that Monday and Tuesday's forecasted wind is not too bad. We would be in the Pamlico River and Sound during that time. But if you figure that on Wednesday, we would leave the Ocracoke Inlet, you can see things dramatically pick up with forecasted winds over 40 miles an hour. That's way too much wind to be rounding the Capes. So we will continue to watch the weather and hopefully nail something down in the next week or so.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Of course I ate too much and watched a lot of football, but what else are holidays for.

We had our first snow flurries tonight here in Asheville. The wind was crazy as the cold front moved slowly up the coast. We just got the outer rings of it yesterday. The temps will fall into the high 20's tomorrow night and stay chilly through Sunday.

Dreaming of warmer anywhere on the map. :) Actually, once we get the boat down to Florida, we intend to get involved with a charity group that brings supplies, food, educational materials and medicine to Caribbean Islanders who need them. We hope to eventually see a lot of these areas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Washington, NC to Jacksonville, FL Trip

The preparations for the trip to Florida are coming to a close. Now we are just waiting for a good weather window. A lot has been done to the boat to get us this far and a lot of additional planning has been done to ensure safety and comfort. Folks have been asking about the trip route. I have gone ahead and saved each leg in chart form so you can see what we are planning. If you want to see a chart in more detail, just click on it and it will allow you to see all of them more closely.

You will find that there are 5 Legs in this trip. I have broken it out this way for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the first two Legs are in the relative safe waters of the Pamlico River and Sound. By taking our time a bit up front, we can be sure all boat systems are working as expected and that we feel comfortable leaving the Ocracoke Inlet into the Atlantic. It also allows the crew to get used to the sail plans, inner workings and everything else in a more comfortable atmosphere of a river and protected sound. Now don't get me wrong, the Pamlico sound can certainly get nasty, but our choice of weather window should help to alleviate that possibility.
Secondly, by breaking the trip up into 5 Legs, it will allow us the most rest between stops and keep the over night passages to a minimum. There are only two of us, so being sure we feel comfortable to handle these Legs are of the utmost importance.

So lets break the Legs down so you can understand the charts below.

Leg 1 - McCotters Marina in Washington, NC to Indian Island, NC
This Leg is the shortest and easiest of all the Legs. At 18 nautical miles or so, it will give us a good idea of how the boat is set-up and reveal any issues in calm waters of the Pamlico River. We will anchor off the back side of Indian Island the first night.

Leg 2 - Indian Island, NC to the Ocracoke Inlet.
Another relatively short Leg of the trip at around 38 nautical miles. We will leave at first light and make our way across the sound stopping at Ocracoke inlet for the night. We will have a little more time on Leg 2 to make sure all of the systems are up to the task of our off shore legs. Looking forward to this sail quite a bit.

Leg 3 - Ocracoke Inlet to Charleston, SC
As you can imagine, Leg 3 will be the longest of the Legs at 254 nautical miles. It's also the Leg that will have us off shore the furthest at around 50 miles or so. If you look at the chart, you can see the land between Cape fear and Cape Lookout going in quite a bit, making a letter "C". Since it would increase our mileage significantly following the coast line, we will go straight across therefore being out quite a bit from land. Once we cross Frying Pan Shoals off of Cape Lookout, we are free and clear and can hug the coast a lot closer. We would want to do this as the further south we get, the closer the Gulf Stream curves towards land. At 3 to 4 knots in a northerly direction, we certainly wouldn't want to fight that the whole way. As well, the closer in we go, we will catch the southerly eddies created by the stream helping us along. A win-win in my book.

Leg 4 - Charleston, SC to Jacksonville, FL Inlet
The second longest Leg of the journey at 175 nautical miles. It should be a pretty easy sail, but one of the two over night passages we will encounter.

Leg 5 - Jacksonville, FL Inlet to Flemming Island Marina.
This will be a nice sail down the St. John's River the whole way. You will see that there are 2 charts for this Leg, A and B. That was just because it was to long to include on one chart and make anything legible. This is about a 32 nautical mile trip where we will need to go under a few bridges as we near downtown Jacksonville. With a mast height off the water of about 46 feet, we won't have to worry about clearing any of these as they are all around 65 feet. The train bridge is shorter however but they leave it open unless a train passes. Either way, we could easily throw out an anchor or pull into the waterside area and grab a bite if we had to wait. From there it's a clear shot to the marina and hot showers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Before and After

As I mentioned, we had done quite a bit of work since taking delivery of Skylark. Most of the systems have been modified or completely replaced. Here are a few "before" photos. I am still learning the ins and outs of linking photos directly, but this should give you a good idea of what we found at the beginning.

From there, the modifications started. The first thing we tackled was the head and holding tank. The toilet was replaced and a holding tank was added. It was put in the hanging locker near the forward V-birth as it never had one to begin with. I decided to go with a Y valve and keep the discharge through-hull. As well, all of the seacocks and thru-hulls were replaced. It's an old boat and they were original. We got rid of the cushions and replaced them new along with new memory foam in the V-birth. Replaced the alcohol stove with a propane Seaward Princess 3 burner and oven as well as dual purpose chart table/work area on top of it.

Lets see...replaced the VHF radio and the depth sounder as they were not working. Did quite a bit of engine work along with replacing the folding prop with a fixed 3 blade model. Had the spreaders completely redone and replaced the main sail with a brand new one from F/X sails. The list goes on and on, but you can see the results in the "after" pics below. If you want any additional details on any of the work we did, just let me know.

The First of Many

We have owned Skylark, our 1968 Cal 34 sailboat for about 9 months now. Since taking delivery in February 2009, we have done a lot of work through-out to say the least. It's been tough, but I think she is really looking good. (of course I may be a bit biased:) As any boat owner knows, you are never "done" with your to-do list, but I am happy to report that we are making excellent progress. I will add a picture for your viewing pleasure.

We bought Skylark with the intentions of sailing her down to Jacksonville, FL so we could use it as a home base while visiting family and cruising in the Keys and Bahamas. If all goes well, that trip is on the very near horizon and will make for fun reading...I hope.