Monday, January 31, 2011

Sailing on Lake Norman

North Carolina finally emerged from it's deep freeze and gave us a beautifully sunny, warm weekend to enjoy. I took advantage both days and got outside, brushing off the dust that has accumulated these last miserable weeks. It was most needed.

On Saturday, I was able to get out on the bike for a decent ride around town. Everything has been so desolate lately that with folks out and about, it looked like a scene from a disaster movie when people emerge from the wreckage for the first time. Good to know there is life after snow. I gave the bike a much needed bath and put on a new set of saddle bags I bought right before the first snow back in December. I enjoy riding quite a bit. I never thought I would, but the bug bit hard after tooling around town on a pair of scooters we bought last year and that was that.

On Sunday, I made my way down to lake Norman just out side of Charlotte, NC. My buddy Matt has his boats there and I went for the day to help out a bit and then for a sail. The first one of 2011 and it went very well.

We started working on his recently purchased Ericson 34. It's on the hard and he is going through a pretty intensive refit. She will be great once everything is done sometime in early March. Looking forward to getting out on her for some spring sailing.

Since we couldn't toil all day with weather the way it was, we walked down to the slip where he keeps his Morgan 25. He has done a great job fixing her up over the last couple of years and she is in great shape for a 1971. Although the wind was light all day, we were able to make a few knots and enjoy the afternoon. With a few cold ones and some good tunes to keep us company, the day was complete. We started in around 4:00 just as the breeze started to pick up and was able to sail the rumbline back to the marina. Actually, for the first time ever on any boat, I was able to sail her in to her slip without the motor. That was pretty cool. Anyway, I had a blast and look forward to hanging out more down at the Lake this summer. Thanks to Matt for the first sail of the year.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Week on Skylark

Had a great week down at the boat. Spent a lot of time with Zachary doing the things we like best...relaxing. Between school, sports, friends, chores and homework, Zachary stays really busy through-out the week as you can imagine. So when I come to visit, we like to slow it down a bit and relax whenever we can. What does that entail? Watching movies, going to the book store, eating of course and playing video games. It's wonderful to have this time together, so I will certainly enjoy it while I still can.

I did get some minor things on the boat accomplished as well...slow but sure. The first thing I had to take care of right away was a digital antenna for the TV. I know, not the most nautical of tasks, but I had to be ready for the playoffs on Sunday. A quick trip to Walmart and 20 bucks later, I was set. After futzing with it for a while, I let the TV do it's thing and search for the HD broadcasts that took over for VHF/UHF about a year ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it found 17 channels. After taking a look at what I got, I was even more pleasantly surprised to see that I had FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS and a few other "cable-like" channels all in clear, HD quality. We are less that 20 miles from downtown Jacksonville straight down the river, so I am sure that helped quite a bit. Anyway, the antenna was a success and the games were on Sunday. I was able to set-up some cushions in the cockpit so I could get some sun while watching the game. Hey, things could be worse. :)

Now that we were covered on the TV front, it was time to move to some lighting. I installed a 23 inch florescent track light in the galley right under the chainplate backing plate. It fit perfectly and gives off just the right amount of light. I am not a big fan of using the house lights in port, especially since mine are from the middle ages and draw a ton of power from the batteries. Changing them all out to LEDs are on the to-do list, but that's not happening soon. Good addition all in all as I was using a clip on work lamp and it always fell off. As well, I installed 2 battery powered LED strips lights in the state room for reading or finding your way to the head at night. Easy addition and they work well.

I was also able to delve into some of those unseen nooks and crannies for some cleaning and sludge removal. No matter where you look, there is always some mold or mildew to get rid of. The fun and exciting details of boat ownership. I have found a product that helps keep the mold to a minimum while I am away from the boat. Since it lasts a month before needing replacement, it works perfect for me. And for only 2 bucks a bucket, it pays for itself. Since I am not around to empty it, I poke a few holes in the bottom of the bucket and place it in the sink when I leave. This way, instead of the water building up in the bucket, it goes down the drain. It's only about 4 inches in diameter by maybe 5 inches high, so you can get a bunch and easily store them. Very worth it in my opinion.

So the big story of the week however was running into a new member at the marina who recently purchased a Catalina 27. Really nice guy and quite helpful all around. Anyway, while walking to the car, he mentioned he was on his way to the Sailor Exchange in St. Augustine to sell a couple of winches a friend had given to him. If you are not familiar with Sailors Exchange and you live close to the St. Augustine area, check it out. It's basically a huge sailing stuff garage sale and you can get lucky.
As you all know, I have been keeping an eye out for a set of used winches to replace the ones that broke on the trip down. Obviously I had to take a look. Needless to say, I was really happy to see a pair or Barlow 25, 2 speed, self tailing winches laying in the back of the truck. We took them down to Skylark and measured the space where they would go. They were perfect. New, they would run close to $1000 a piece, but I was able to get both of them for a few hundred bucks. A perfect ending to a great week. Winch replacement was on the short list, so I can actually say I checked off a biggie.

So for now, I am still trying to figure out the next steps with the engine. Fix what I have, a 42 year old gas Atomic 4, replace with a new Atomic 4 or change over to diesel. We all know what the critics think about gas engines on a boat. There are tons of people that swear by the old A4s and time has shown they are basically bullet proof. Replacing with a new one would save money as it would basically be a simple switch reusing all the parts, wiring, etc. that's there, but I am leaning towards a diesel. That's the dilemma of the day. I will keep you updated.

Oh yes, one more thing. When I was in North Carolina, I had State Farm insurance covering hull and liability on Skylark. As a lot of boaters know or have heard, it is very difficult to find insurance in Florida. As so was the case with Skylark. State Farm does not accept new policies in Florida at this time and most of the national companies don't either. I did find one though that would, so I thought I would post in case any of you were looking. Progressive took the policy without question and the rates, for Florida anyway, were very reasonable. Take a look

Thanks again for all of your comments. I do appreciate you following along and I promise to have more interesting posts once the spring comes along. ) Here are a few pics for you folks out in the cold "middle states." Enjoy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

5036 Visitors. What the What?

So I was taking a look at the blog today and scrolled to the very bottom. I saw that there have been over 5000 visitors to the blog since it was started. Since there are only 8 followers, I was quite surprised that there have been so many folks poking around over the last 2 years. (I guess I should look at the visitor counter more often) I would love to hear from you all and know who you are, what you might like to see, new ideas, questions, etc. Don't be shy...

I really appreciate you coming to look. It makes it all worth it. Thanks!

P.S. Very cold down here in Jacksonville today. Thank goodness for the little heater that could. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nothing but FOG

All you could make out of the sunrise this morning was a bright ball behind dense fog. You could see the boat next you, but that's about it. Supposed to clear, but wow, I would hate to be trying to come through a pass in fog like this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

67 Degrees and Sunny

I truly envy all you out there who get to enjoy the beautiful southern weather year round. As I made my way down Rt 95 south today, I could see the thermometer slowly but surely climb from the mid thirties to a whopping 67 degrees by the time I made it to the marina. Now I realize 67 is not the end all be all, but when you have had snow since early December and temperatures in the teens at night, 67 degrees feels Africa hot. I am actually sitting on the boat in shorts and a tee shirt, so I will certainly take what I can get. Along with a nice warm day, there is not a cloud in the sky and of course a wonderful sea breeze to air everything out. And I hear, tomorrow is supposed to be 70. Wow, and to think I nearly killed myself on the ice this morning when I loaded the car.
All is well here on Skylark. Other than a few new boats in the marina, everything seems to be the same ol', same ol'. Looking forward to spending some time with Zachary and getting some stuff done on the boat as well. I have my trusty list here and I hope to get a few things crossed off by the end of the week. In the mean time, I will soak up some sun and enjoy it all while it lasts. I think I saw 50s and rain for the weekend. The horror! More to come as I get stuff done.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shake Down Cruise, the Lost Footage

Was looking through some photos this morning and found a funny little video shot by my buddy Matt on the first sail after the refit. The sound is horrible, but the day was beautiful and we had perfect wind for a shake down cruise. This was in Washington, NC on the Pamlico River about 3 miles from the marina.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wow, Too Close to Home. Fire at McCotters Marina

Just came across the news on Cruisers Forum that there was a horrendous fire at McCotters Marina in Washington, NC. If you remember, that's where I had Skylark before coming down to Jacksonville. I just got off the phone with one of the folks I knew down there and fortunately, no one was hurt. However, the dock right behind the slip I had Skylark was the one which burned. All the boats are a total loss. There were a few antique boats on that dock being restored, what a shame. Thank God no one was hurt.

Here is the news report and a link to a video posted by WITN news...unreal:

Pollution Now Concern At Marina Fire Scene
Three people were treated for minor injures after an early morning fire damaged at least 25 boats in Washington. All the fuel that leaked into the creek has required the response of a hazmat team from Cherry Point. Booms have been placed in a creek to help control pollution and debris after a fire ripped through a Beaufort County marina early this morning.

Fire broke out around 12: 30 a.m. at McCotters Marina, that's on Broad Creek east of Washington.
Officials say fuel from about two dozen boats has contaminated the entire creek. The U.S. Coast Guard and a hazmat team from Cherry Point has responded to help contain debris and assess the environmental impact. Eastern Environmental, a private hazardous materials company, has been called in to conduct the clean-up.
The fire broke out at the north dock of the marina. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office says at least 25 boats were involved in the massive blaze that had some people literally leaping for their lives. Authorities say most of the boats were a total loss.
One woman had to jump from a boat into the frigid creek to escape the flames. She was transported to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia. Her fiancee, Mark Hundell, was also treated for burns to his face and hands. Both have since been released from the hospital. The sheriff's office says, in total, three people were treated for minor injuries.
Beaufort County Fire Marshal Curtis Avery says about 100 feet of a pier burned and firefighters worked for about five hours to control the blaze.
Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack says they believe the first started on one boat and spread to others at the marina. He says many of the boats lost were one of a kind, handmade or antique boats so right now there is no estimate available. Pack says it's not known how long the cleanup will take.
Beaufort County has just one boat capable of fighting fires on the water and that boat was out of service for scheduled repairs. Pack says because of the intensity of the fire it would not have made any difference.
People gathered say about 80 boats are docked in the marina, and people actually live on seven or eight of them. Boat Owner Mike Little is one of them. Little said, "I heard a whooshing noise. They said there were explosions, but I didn't hear that. When I looked up, my curtains were really red. I looked out the window, and the whole docks were on fire. "
The Bunyan Fire Chief Wesley Williams says fighting this fire was particularly difficult. "The dock is completely burned away," Williams said. "We were fighting from long range, plus everything is covered in ice. So we're concerned about the safety of our fire fighters slipping into the creek."
Chief Williams says they don't know yet what started the fire. They were planning to double check to make sure everyone was out of the boats at sunrise, but everyone has already been accounted for.
Fourteen agencies responded to the fire, including area fire departments, NC Emergency Management and the Sydney Dive Team.

The covered dock behind Skylark

South dock after a storm