The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Begins
Skinny Dippin'

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Summer 2010 and Fast Forward to Present!!

Summer of 2010

We arrived back to Northwest Creek the first of May after a month at Carolina Beach. We immediately fell into a groove of little projects and days cruising the Neuse River. From the marina, we were an hour from New Bern, two hours from Oriental and 4 hours from Beaufort and Morehead City. Many days were spent at anchor in the River or in Broad Creek enjoying afternoons in the summer sun.

July 4th in New Bern is a very special day. Hundreds of boats, big and little alike, anchor for the afternoon at Union Point where the Neuse and Trent Rivers merge. This year, there was an air show featuring two stunt planes doing loops and spins, and the Marine’s brought out their Chinook Helicopter for a rescue demonstration.

We, like everyone else, were anchored near Union Point. We tried to choose a place to anchor where we’d be out ot the traffic area and yet still have a good view of the shows. We had some friends over to enjoy some snacks and comradarie. This was our first Raft up and was about to be our first overnight at anchor. Our biggest concern? Getting Tivo in the dinghy and motoring in the dark about a half mile over to the shore so he could pee. And then….even more importantly, finding Skinny Dippin’ in the pitch dark! We waited until all the skiffs and runabouts had fled for the evening, then jumped in the dinghy. Tivo doesn’t love being in the dinghy, but he’s just such a good dog, he’ll do whatever we ask him to. And Luckily, while I was walking the dog, Tom was trying to keep a visual on SD!

It was a magical day…from the cruise up River, to anchoring near our friends, and having them over for some socializing…swimming in the afternoon and airshow and fireworks at night. It was one of my favorite days. We got up Early that next morning and took the big boat over to the town dock to pee the dog. Then we started down river. We arrived home early and started the predeparture wash down.

August brings the Beaufort Pirate Invasion!! Historic Beaufort NC is taken over by Pirates and Wenches and all manner of sailors and boaters watching the invasion! There is a unique combination of cannons blazing and drunken revelry as the locals try to defend their shores! While this might sound super Hokey, it really is a blast! We had the best seats in the house, being right on the Town Dock as the pirate ships came in! While being in the crystal clear waters of Beaufort, Tom took the opportunity to change out the transom and rudder zincs.

For those who don’t know…Beaufort is protected from the Atlantic Ocean by Shackleford Banks. This island is inhabited only by wild ponies. It’s a stunningly beautiful spit of land.
Getting in and out of Beaufort is a challenge. The tidal current is strong here. You really need to be aware of the tide and your plan of action for getting out of your slip. According to the dockhands here, many a skipper can be caught unaware and find themselves in very uncomfortable postions, with the mega yachts that sit on the T docks. Luckily, we were ready to go at slack tide that morning. Easy Breezy.

And here is where our lives where going to take a turn. Beaufort to Northwest Creek is a 5 hour journey. While a pleasant cruise, knowing there is a 2.5 to 3 hour drive home after the cruise, made us question ourselves. Did we buy the wrong boat? Should we have a “go fast” boat so we could go places on our short weekends? We love trawler cruising, but do we have the time needed to be trawler owners? This is a question we struggled with for the next month or so. By the time October rolls around…we’ve made a decision. We do have the right boat. We’re just in the wrong location right now. (wrong just meaning inconvenient) So, we decide to go back to the beach for a little while longer. Carolina Beach is such a great location. Several destinations are reachable for lunch or weekend visits. And when weather conditions are not favorable, the beach is walking distance and restaurants and pubs are biking distance. This is what we need at this time in our lives. The decision is made, and plans are being implemented.

Thanksgiving weekend is our timeframe. We’ll take the long weekend to cruise her back down the ICW. This time, we’ll stop in Morehead City on Weds night….have I mentioned that we love Mike at the Yacht Basin? Thanksgiving Day and evening we’ll be at the Harbour Village Marina in Hampstead, then Friday will bring us back to Joyner Marina. While at Harbour Village. I did cook a full thanksgiving meal. Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes and gravy. I did it….in a toaster oven, three burner stove and a microwave. So.,..there you are….it can be done.

I intended this entry to just be the summer of 2010.…but here I’ve gotten all the way to our move back to the beach. The day after we arrived, the temperatures fell hard. Winter arrived. We made it just in time. Over the coming months, we still go to the boat, at least every other week…even if we don’t go boating.

New Year’s was coming in with a 65 degree day…we were going boating!! We went up to the Wilmington Town docks for New Year’s Eve!! What a blast!! We walked down town, had pizza and margaritas at “A Slice of Life”. Then stopped at Fat Tony’s for a Fat Tire. We were back on board by 9pm where I fixed a traditional Pork and Saurerkraut yankee dinner. We enjoyed dinner and hit the hay. Unfortunately, during the overnight hours, one of Wilmington’s “finest” decided to relieve us of a good chunk of our possessions while we slept. We awoke as this scumbag was disembarking from our vessel. We immediately called the Wilmington PD and our credit card company to secure our identities and credit scores. It seems, as I write this on March 27, that we’ll never see our laptop, cell phones, binoculars, wallets, keys or bike pump again. Man…this sucks. We tried to sleep after the policeman left…but couldn’t. We met the nicest guy docked behind us the day before. We had met him and chatted when we arrived….but it was New Years day…when this man, who we didn’t know barely at all, gave us cash money and a phone number in case we had a problem getting home. His home port is Wrightsville Beach . And when we got back to Joyner Marina, our dock neighbor let us use his cell phone to make dozens of calls again to the bank to make sure we were secured. Our Marina Manager let us use her computer to change all of our passwords on all of the numerous online accounts that we had clicked one time or another “remember me”. Many many thanks to those who helped us that day.

On the subject of being robbed, burglarized is what it is if you don’t confront the thief. Losing your “stuff”, while that sucks, is inconsequential….to the deep deep fear of what “could have happened”. The hours of wondering, what if he knew we were on board…what if we came upon him in the act…what if what if what if. It made us sick to our stomachs for weeks and weeks..and sometimes still. But…I am determined that this loser and this event will not define who I am and will not effect how much we love cruising. This could have happened anywhere. The fact that it happened on our very first outing in Wilmington after relocating for a currently undetermined about of time…sucks the most. We want to love it here…we want to feel at home every time we’re on the boat…but that is taking conscious efforts. Everytime we’re standing in line somewhere, and I see someone who may or may not be a “thug”, I want to ask if he’s our thug and how is he enjoying our stuff. I know…that’s a broad brush…but this thug in my mind is just a punk,,,other than being a he, there is no other predetermined characteristics.

So this brings us up to and into 2011. After the “episode”…Tom decided to dive into a Fuel Polishing project. I will let him tell you all the details on that, it’s really cool.
Since January, we’ve done a little boating when we can, lots of walks on the beach looking for sandcastles, and a good deal of bicycling for Oysters and Fat Tires. Life is good.
We’re getting back to normal emotionally. We love our boat, and we love spending time on the water. So far we’ve overcome the obstacles in our path and we’ve met some very very priceless people along the way.

A few notes as we move forward in this blog. Since we have a “galley down” it shall always be known going forward as the “eating hole”. And the engine room will hence forth be known as the “yelling hole”. Please make notes so you can follow along in the future!!

Coming soon will be updates on my new Sailrite and canvas work as well as Tom’s “from the yelling hole” updates.

Be safe, be happy and fair winds!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hello Everyone!

Hello everyone, Tom here. I suppose that because Bess went to all the trouble to setup a blog for our boat, Skinny Dippin’ then give me posting access, I might as well post something here and shine a light on what my contributions will be to this newest adventure. Having never done any blogging before, I am not sure where to start. So, maybe a little history and background would be as good a place to start as any.

Born and raised in Raleigh, NC, I was first exposed to boating in the mid-seventies at Camp Seagull – a YMCA camp located on the Neuse River just a few miles west of Oriental, NC at Minnesott Beach. In three years at Camp Seagull, I discovered my enjoyment for boats and my interest in tinkering with engines.

After my third and final year of camp (1976 if memory serves) my father, somehow, found out they were replacing the ski boat fleet. He purchased one of the ski boats from Seagull for $950 and named her Yellow Jacket. She was a bright yellow cathedral-hull boat with a 50 horsepower Mercury outboard. For the next several years I was able to boat around Bouge Sound from our vacation home in Emerald Isle. My father gave me a lot of latitude and I spent many days running up and down the ICW from Morehead City to Swansboro alone. There was no parental supervision and the freedom to do just about anything I wanted. She was a wonderful family boat for many years. He has only just recently sold her away without my knowledge.

My mechanical skills slowly matured, but even today I am not any sort of expert. Jack of all trade… Master of none, basically. Over the years I learn by necessity. As a broke student and pizza delivery guy in the 80’s, I found that paying someone to fix my broken car was a waste of money and the fun and satisfaction of getting dirty replacing a water pump or clutch was quite nice. I never held any significant jobs in the field because I thought it would taint the experience and the joy of it all.

Fast forward to 2009 - This whole boating idea was originally Bess’ idea. I had never really worked on marine engines before. While looking at potential candidates for our first “real” boat, I peered into the engine rooms. I had more than a few panic attacks seeing those giant diesel Cat 3208s or 7-liter MerCruiser engines looming silently below deck. All of the alien systems tangled to them I couldn't help but think, “What the hell am I going to do with all that?” Diesels were also one of those things that I have never been exposed to before and I wasn’t going to begin my boating life feeling overwhelmed by the primary thing I have to take care of.

That’s why Skinny Dippin’ was such a great find. She’s a big little boat. At 35’ and galley-down, there is a lot of room for a guy like me to work in her full-width salon. The single 135 horsepower motor (the boat did have an option for twin screws), she chugs along at a comfortable 7.5 knots, however, with just the one engine, I can learn all I need to know about older diesels and have lots of room to crawl around. And of course, the added benefit of lower operating costs. (an argument for another time)

Over the course of this blog, I plan to just post things as I learn them… and I have a lot to learn about boats and their unique systems. Fixing my own stuff for all of these many years makes the learning curve much less steep and of course and if any of you have anything to add or help me out of the jams I’ll certainly get myself into. Please feel free to comment or email me about it.

That’s about it for now. Thanks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our First Big CRUISE!! April 2010

I'm going to be brief with the updates to bring us to present day!  Before the big cruise, we did all the typical projects to make the boat ours. New fabric, new name, new mattress. We spent endless hours cleaning and shining and changing fluids. We decided to go to the beach for a month and visit the Cape Fear area - do a little “mini cruise” to get an idea of what the “real” cruisers do!

We took a long weekend for the trip down, leaving New Bern on a Friday morning. We tossed off the lines around 10am and had about a 4 hour 35mile cruise to Morehead City, passing the ferry at Minnesott Point. This was not our first trip down Adam’s Creek, but it was no less special. Coming into the channel at the end of Adam’s creek we were following a line of sailboats.

We always stay at the Morehead City Yacht Basin when in MC. We just love Mike the dockmaster. He runs a top notch marina. And super knowledgeable about the winds and currents in the area. Another big bonus is that it’s walking distance over to the waterfront and Ruddy Ducks!  A favoritite spot for a nice Fat Tire draft and an oyster po’boy.

Saturday morning we left as soon as the morning fog burned off…..we were making way to Snead’s Ferry where we would over night. This is our first trip on Skinny Dippin’ through Bogue Sound.

And our very first Draw Bridge. We made it with just a little time to wait and learn some local knowledge from the bridge tender. It’s a beautiful clear sunny day….couldn’t be better….the dolphins are guiding us…..again.

It’s about a 45 mile day and we arrive into Swan Point Marina before 4pm. The Marina is a DIY boatyard. The depths run about 4.5 feet at low tide….be careful here. The staff was friendly and there is a little store with beer, ice and bait. The bathrooms weren’t “that” bad….I guess the ladies room was better than the men’s room…Tom was a little disappointed in the facilities. 

Easter Sunday dawned with heavy heavy fog. We thought for sure it would burn off in a minute. So we tossed the lines. Note to newbies out there….be prepared to plot a course with a compass, or wait for the fog to burn off. We couldn’t see buoy to buoy. But luckily…I learned a little about navigating before we left. Between knowing what course we should be on, and following the crab pots that are usually on the edge of the channel…we made it through the fog. As we went under the Top Sail Island fly over bridge the fog burns off.

Our second draw bridge is Surf City, then the Figure 8 and on to the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. Tom was very happy to have mastered the art of keeping Skinny Dippin' sitting still as we waited for the bridge openings.  This was one of his greatest fears of the trip.  She actually tracks quite well and will go bow to the wind without much input.  Only had to fight the current.  At Wrightsville Beach we are 12 miles from our destination. The wind is picking up and it’s getting a little chilly….but we’re so excited for our arrival at Joyner Marina. Our home port for four weekends.

A safe landing at the pump out and another one at our temporary slip. Frosty beverages all around and a quick walk on the beach for Tivo (boat dog). His favorite thing in all the world is to pee on sand castles!!  Don't worry, I never let him pee on them as they are being constructed!  ;-)

We spend three of four weekends at the beach, visiting Wrightsville beach and Southport each once. We didn’t get to do everything we’d wanted too….but the good news is we can always come back!

The Trip home was an over night at the Beach House Marina at Surf City, and Oysters at Buddy’s on the beach. Very nice docks here, the marina isn’t yet built, but it is walking distance to the beach and restaurants. One more overnight at Morehead City - Love Mike at the Yacht Basin. We had a few mechanical issues on the way home that I’ll let Tom detail in his own words.

We arrive back to our home marina at Northwest Creek on the Neuse River. I remember the feeling of being home…and happy that we had our first big adventure.  We had a great time….can’t wait to do it again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brief Summary of the early life of Skinny Dippin'

So, Tom and I purchased her on July 17th 2009.   We have spent the last 20 years traveling the Caribbean two or three times per year, only visiting the same hotel twice.  One of our last trips left us thinking that there has to be an alternative to air travel.  Traveling through airports has gotten to be such a pain in the ass, that we began the search for other options.  At first we thought we'd simply rent beach cottages up and down the coast.  Then we thought..."hey, we could get our own mobile beach house"!!  And the search began.  We'd never heard of "cruising" or "looping", we thought we would simply be boaters.

As the shopping continued, and the whole "what kind of boat do we buy" question, we came across Skinny Dippin'....formerly of another name.  She just spoke to us.  She was way out of our price range, but we thought we could make it work...or at least we'd give it a really good try! 

After closing and receiving the keys, we thought to ourselves, HOLY CRAP....what have we done?  This boat is HUGE....we'll never get her out of her slip, much less get her to the beach....look at all the other boats we can crash into on the way down the fairway!!  I've personally never been so scared in all my life.  ;-)

The very next weekend, We hired a captain (thanks Capt Watson) to teach us the ropes and get us out on the water.  That was the best idea ever....Thanks John Peterson for setting it up.   We spent weekend after weekend with our Dockmaster Bud and Assistant Dockmaster Dawn, who taught us more than we'll ever be able to thank them for.  We took the USPS boating course and passed our exams!

We had the best time that Fall!!  Our marina is always full of "cruisiers" getting ready to head out in November for warmer climates.  I'll never forgot the day I was standing on the dock talking to a sailor in foul weather gear at the fuel dock.  I asked him where are you off to today??  His reply?  "The Bahamas".  I got back on our boat and said, I WANNA DO THAT!!!  Our first "big cruise" was around Minnesott point, past Oriental up to River Dunes Marina for Labor Day weekend. A full 18 miles!!   And our cruise back to Northwest Creek was our first experience with a BIG BEAM SEA.

The sea conditions didn't matter, we were hooked.  We're in, all in.  We are on a 5-10 year plan to get the boat and ourselves ready to do the Great Loop and the Bahamas.  Why 5 to 10 years?  Well, if I hit the lotto tonight, it could be a 30 day plan.

The first winter brought our first bottom job, a rudder extension and some bonding work.  While it was cold, I made new curtains and new cushions for the galley.  Tom has a never ending list of maintenance to do, and he'll be adding those details as he has time. 

Spring of 2010 had us planning a week long cruise to the beach for a month stay.  Which for working schmucks like us meant 3 weekends at the beach.....and then a week long cruise back to New Bern.  I studied navigation and charts, learned a little about watching weather.  I filed float plans and made slip reservations.  We were going CRUISING!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Beginning of "The Blog"

Hello Friends and Family!!  I've been meaning to start a blog of our cruising adventures on MV Skinny Dippin', and now I have.  My first goal of 2011 has been achieved!  Skinny Dippin' is a 35ft Senator Sundeck Trawler.  She has a single Perkins 135.  Single cabin/head configuration with the desirable galley down.  She is the perfect coastal cruiser for a couple.  We acquired Skinny Dippin in the Summer of 2009. 
Survey Day, with a "stand in" boat dog.

The first two summers were spent on the Neuse River at Northwest Creek Marina.  Our main cruising grounds were New Bern, Oriental, Beaufort and Morehead City NC.  We cruised down the ICW (Intercoastal Waterway) in April of 2010 to Carolina Beach for a month of Beach Cruising.  Funny how time gets away from you when you're not paying attention.  We didn't get to do all the cruising we wanted during that month, so in November of 2010, we cruised back south to the Beach to spend a currently undetermined amount of time cruising the Cape Fear and Southern NC ICW. 

Making entries in my Journal...on my new DIY galley cushions made by me
Over the coming weeks, I will update our new blog with excerpts from my paper journal along with photos.  The main goal here is to share with you what we're up to as we prepare for the long term goal of cruising the Great Loop and the Bahamas. 

Thanks for visiting!  I hope you enjoy watching me figure out how to make our adventures an interesting read!