First Off Beat Voyage
Planning the first voyage with Off Beat, all the unknowns and all the knowns that are not ready.
It looks like we're really going to splash and set out from Hilton Head to Charleston next Friday! The number of things that had to come together to make this possible is amazing:
- The basic repairs actually got done (and not too expensive!)
- I found a captain willing to guide me through the ICW. The ICW would otherwise be a bug-a-bear for me: unknown and tricky waters on an unknown boat!
- I have a slip ready and waiting for me at Cooper River.
Getting the repairs done required a lot of patience and a significant willingness to compromise. But the survey recommended an oil change (especially transmission) and fixing a minor leak in secondary fuel pump. I know little about diesels and want a gentle introduction. Bilge pump needed replacement, and is now better than new and one less thing to worry too much about. I "threw in" installing a bow roller and shiny new Rocna anchor. It turns out that required slacking the backstay and now I'll have to tune the rig before leaving. Autopilot was on my wish list, but didn't get done. Grinding the tubeworms off the prop was not on my list, but became worth doing once I thought about efficient cruising. The owner of the boatyard, Eric Smith, is pretty capable, especially at engines, but is a horrible manager and horrible communicator. It's just not what he wants to spend time doing. But he runs the only travel lift on the island, everyone comes to him. I'll be able to install the autopilot myself. And it's not critical for this voyage, we wouldn't use it in the ICW at all, and even offshore the full keel hull should balance and track pretty well all by itself (it says here...).
Finding a suitable slip was not hard, but is more expensive than I planned. Maybe I can do better next year.
Learning the ICW is probably the biggest challenge for me; I'm very happy to have experienced company when I set out. It turns out that the section through Georgia and southern South Carolina has some of the worst shallows and mobile shoals that the ICW has to offer. But it should be managable in a <4' draft and a gentle grounding in mud is the most likely worst case.
I lucked out in finding captian John Teter: we're of an age and hit it off pretty well on first meeting. He's willing to instruct as well as move the boat.
So all I have to do now is get the boat ready for what is probably the longest voyage it has ever done and the first use as a real cruiser.
- Tune the rig including backstay loosened to install the anchor and the port lower shroud that I had measured as slack compared to the others. Owner's manual has some instructions.
- Verify that the new shore power inlet I installed works.
- Verify that the main halyard shackle I replaced is sufficiently strong. The old one was missing its keeper bar and was bound to go overboard the first time I unfastened it for real. But the new one is not as thick, though it is rated with SWL > 1000 lbs.
- Finish reversing polarity of cabin light sockets so they work with the new LEDs (which, duh, don't conduct in reverse polarity). I got some of them working, but have to fish out a few more feed wires and use my new crimping tool.
- Equip the galley and provision for a short trip. Boat came with cruddy old alcohol stove and no cookware (not that I would have wanted to keep it). Icebox not fridge (and insufficient battery for fridge anyway). I haven't installed the planned induction cooker yet (no inverter yet). So I'll use a Coleman propane camp stove, and limit the cooking to coffee (a must!) maybe oatmeal or eggs and franks and beans. Lunch will be coldcuts. We won't be on the water long, might end up eating our one big mean in Beaufort anyway.
- Although I don't know the route, I'm not too worried about actual navigation. The chartplotter + depthsounder is pretty new and I've already used it a little. However, I have not verified the depthsounder offset yet, and that has to happen! I have redundant Navionics charts on my tablet (and will be able to recharge it on board). I'm also not worried about VHF, I have a trusty handheld and was able to program the fixed VHF with my new ($200!) offshore MMSI. So communications should be OK. We have at least 2 swing bridges to hail as well as approach control at Cooper River Marina (they're right next to new port, require traffic in and out call ahead to avoid container ships).
- We will use the marine head, will need to pump out back home. Too bad I couldn't get the composting head in in time to install it.
- I'm not worried about sails and rigging. I have experience with these and they look OK. Plus, they will not be heavily used.
- Weather is never no concern. But this is a pretty settled time of year and the long range forecasts look non-threatening. I'd like to do part of the voyage outside, that's actually easier.
- We'll see whether the scrap of rag that serves as an extended bimini overhead provides enough cover. No dodger, we'll see how dry the boat rides.
- Cabin seems pretty comfortable. There are screens for all the ports, but none for the hatch or companionway. Do I want to rig something up?
- I found leaks in the v berth (which I fixed with new hatch catches) and in the quarterberth (which I think was from the hatch, I just reseated it). We'll have stove for heat if necessary (unlikely), cabin fans are unknown.
- I've been using ToDoist to track all my various boat to-dos (manifold) have added 4 or 5 things to the departure checklist from writing this article.