Monday, June 28, 2010

Leg 2 Trip from Morehead City to Jacksonville Update

Sorry guys, I know there are quite few folks wondering what happened as again, a 4 to 5 day trip took more than 2 weeks. I have yet to wrap my head around all the events since I left for the boat on June 12th, but I will certainly give you a story and a half as soon as I can manage it. Bottom line for now is that everyone is ok and the boat is very near it's final destination. You just gotta love cruising. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Leg 2 to Jacksonville Update

I have been pretty hush hush lately about plans for our trip down to Jacksonville. We have run into so many snags over the last couple of months that I thought maybe I need to keep my mouth shut and just wait until it's real close. Well, we are leaving for the boat this afternoon to start preparations and provisioning. I hope that's close enough. :)

The plan is to leave Morehead City, NC tomorrow, Saturday June 12th. We have good weather forecast for the next few days, so as of now, we are looking good. The first big hurdle is getting around Cape Fear, but the weather looks like it will cooperate till Sunday morning before the winds change, so we should just make it far enough south west before having to head west when the winds come around.

The repaired sail was delivered to the boat on Wednesday, so I feel really good about the sails for the trip. Thanks to Paul at Omar Sails in Beaufort for getting that done for us. Dave and I need to install the new GPS, but other than that, I feel confident Skylark is ready. Who is Dave you ask? I will save that for another post. :) Allen was not able to join the trip this time, so I welcome Dave aboard for this leg.

If it's possible, I will ask Amy to post progress as we make our way down the coast. I don't plan on being very far off shore most of the way, so I am thinking we will have cell reception when we get closer to Charleston. As of now, we are not planning on stopping, but there are tons of inlets that have good anchorages, so if we need to, we will. Safety is of course key, so we will take our time and do it right. I plan to be in Jacksonville Thursday morning, but there is no such thing as a set schedule on a sailboat.

Wish us luck. If nothing else, I will post when we get in and let you all know how it went.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Abby Sunderland sets off both EPIRBs

After following blogs day in and day out you really start to know folks. Especially in the sense of cruisers, it almost becomes like a scattered family around the globe. So it really hits hard when news like this comes over the lines. Lets all hope she is OK and they get to her soon...

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland focus of emergency rescue effort

A rescue effort has been launched in hope of finding Abby Sunderland, 16, who set off her emergency beacon locating devices from the southern Indian Ocean early this morning.
Sunderland, who had been attempting to sail around the world alone, endured multiple knockdowns in 60-knot winds yesterday (Thursday local time) before conditions briefly abated.
However, her parents lost satellite phone contact early this morning and an hour later were notified by the Coast Guard at French-controlled Reunion Islands that both of Sunderland's EPIRB satellite devices had been activated.
One apparently is attached to a survival suit and meant to be used when a person is in the water or a life raft.
Abby's father struggled with emotions and said he didn't know if his daughter was in a life raft or aboard the boat, or whether the boat was upside down.
"Everything seemed to be under control," Laurence Sunderland said. "But then our call dropped and a hour later the Coast Guard called."
Abby is hundreds of miles from land. The rescue effort is being coordinated by the Reunion Islands and Australia. Sunderland had been sailing in 50- to 60-foot seas and it was dark when the EPIRB devices were activated.
The Sunderlands are asking people to pray for their daughter, a high-school junior from Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Abby was for several months one of two 16-year-olds attempting to sail around the world alone. Australia's Jessica Watson completed her journey last month, just days before turning 17.
Abby's brother Zac, who graduated from high school, completed a solo-circumnavigation last summer at 17.
The timing of Abby's trip was criticized by some because it was placing her in the middle of the Indian Ocean when the stormy Southern Hemisphere winter was at hand.
-- Pete Thomas

Status Update

Abby has been found alive and well. Her boat was damaged but is still sound. She should be picked up by a fishing vessel on Saturday

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chartplotter Update

Although the laptop loaded with SeaClear chartplotting software and a GPS puck is a good idea on paper, practical use revealed something very different. There were a few problems with the system, at least, on Skylark there was. I have touted SeaClear in the past, so I wanted to follow up for those of you thinking of going this route.

Don't get me wrong, SeaClear is a great for trip planning. I love it and will continue to use it when figuring out distances, way points, etc. For the price, free, its ease of use and general functionality, it's the way to go in my opinion. Since it uses NOAA charts which are also free to download, it's a win-win. With that said, unless you have a nice, dry and light controlled pilot house, I would recommend a true charplotter. Here is why...

There were multiple issues, but the biggest draw back is the glare from the sun making the screen virtually unreadable. Most of the time, we were unplugged from the inverter, so it was running off it's battery and very dark. It became a little frightening coming into Morehead City with nothing but a black screen and channel markers all over the place. Using it on deck was impossible, so we had to keep running below to find a dark corner to crouch in and yell up way points. Of course night time use is a lot better, but its still tough to use on deck.

The second draw back we found was having to charge the batteries all the time. This brought the house bank down pretty quickly. Of course having methods to keep up with the batteries like solar or wind chargers would help with this one, but I think it just not worth it in the end, it just takes too much juice with out a dedicated charging system.

The last draw back back was having a laptop in a rocking, sometimes violently moving boat. There is no "safe" surface on Skylark where you could put the laptop without the possibility of it flying across the boat. Allan's laptop went soaring across the cabin but miraculously landed on the settee cushions. Between that and the salt, I have been told by other cruisers you are lucky to get a few months out of it before it's dead from corrosion. You can get a Toughbook, which I would suggest anyway if you bring it on board for long periods, but they are a bit expensive.

So for the trip to Jacksonville, I went ahead and got a Garmin GPSMAP 441 Chartplotter. I got a great price and it comes loaded with all of the east coast charts as well as the Bahamas. Buying charts separately for these things costs a fortune, so I think it was a good deal. It gets mounted directly to the boat, is made to get wet and can be read in the sun. Power usage is low, so there you go, a perfect package all rolled into one.

Quick overview:

The GPSMAP 441 has faster map drawing and panning speeds. Plus, these waterproof units, have a high-sensitivity internal GPS receiver,compatible with various NMEA 2000 components

The GPSMAP 441 is a compact chartplotter that features an ultra-bright 4” QVGA color display along with an improved high-speed digital design for increased map drawing and panning speeds. It’s ready to go with an easy-to-use interface and a built-in, satellite-enhanced basemap preloaded with all U.S. coastal areas, including Alaska and Hawaii as well as detailed charts for Bermuda. The GPSMAP 441 also accepts BlueChart® g2 Vision cards for added features and functionality such as high-resolution satellite imagery, 3D views and Auto Guidance technology.

The GPSMAP 441 comes ready to go with preloaded U.S. coastal area map data. For areas outside the U.S., the GPSMAP 441 has a worldwide basemap with satellite images in place of more traditional maps. The GPSMAP 441 also comes standard with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for superior satellite tracking and quicker acquisition times. In addition, the GPSMAP 441 can receive U.S. graphical weather data via optional GXM 51 satellite receiver/antenna. And with an SD card slot, it’s easy to add additional maps without connecting to a computer.

I am looking at a 21watt solar panel as well to help with off-shore battery charging, but that's another post. :)