Oystercatcher, Weekender, Nowell Creek, April 2016

Oystercatcher, anchored in Nowell Creek, north of Charleston, SC
Having relaunched Oystercatcher after her winter haulout and maintenance period, it was time to take her out for a weekend on the water. I had spent quite a few nights on her at the dock in the summer and fall of 2015, but I'd not yet taken her out for a night on the hook. In this posting I describe this first weekender experience aboard Oystercatcher and the lessons I learned along the way.
Charleston, South Carolina, the homeport of Oystercatcher, is located along the East Coast of the United States. There are many rivers, creeks, marshes, and islands in the area around Charleston. The name for this low-lying, saltwater region in general is the Lowcountry.
Charleston sits on a peninsula. On one side is the Ashley River and on the other is the Cooper. Northeast of Charleston is the Wando River.
A tributary of the Wando River is Nowell Creek, a wide saltwater creek with marshes on either side of it. It was this creek that I selected for anchoring Oystercatcher.
Ideally I would have left the dock on Friday afternoon, but on this day in mid-April 2016 the winds were high and there was a small craft advisory in effect. Therefore, my daughter and I played it safe and stayed at the marina for the first night.
The next morning, I took this picture of the boat. The previous evening I had put up this tarp to keep the misty rain off of us while we sat around in the cockpit. It had been a somewhat rocky night. The wind had added to the usual turbulence of the tides, currents, and wakes on this T-dock. I loved this spot, though, for Oystercatcher, much more so than her earlier spot down the fairway, where she was surrounded by many other boats. This new spot offered unimpeded views of Charleston Harbor. To me, it was like having waterfront property.
On this morning I cooked sausage and eggs. I used my Origo brand alcohol stove for cooking, and I used my Waring brand hotplate for making the coffee. I had purchased this hotplate as an optional cooking source to use on the boat whenever connected to shorepower (or to the generator), especially when the weather was uncomfortable hot or cold.
Under those circumstances, I would want the companionway hatch closed, either because I would be using the air conditioner, or because I would want to block the cold air from entering the cabin. With the hot plate, I didn't have to worry about ventilating the cabin while cooking. With the alcohol stove, ventilation was a must. I had learned this during my overnighters at the dock in the summer and fall of 2015. Without the companionway hatch fully open, carbon monoxide levels would slowly rise.
While I drank my coffee in the cockpit, I consulted Claiborne Young's Cruising Guide to Coastal South Carolina and Georgia, where he speaks of Nowell Creek.
Meanwhile, my daughter tried to beat the chill by sitting in the sunny rays on the foredeck.
It was late in the morning and the winds, already at 15-20 knots, would be increasing as the day wore on. Therefore, after cleaning up the galley and making ready the deck, we left the dock.
Nowell Creek seemed like a good spot to drop the anchor. The winds were out of the northeast, and the land on the eastern shore of the creek would offer us some protection.
It took us about an hour to get to the mouth of the creek, but it took us about another hour to feel our way into the creek and figure out exactly where we wanted to anchor. Ideally, we would have gotten closer to the eastern shore so that we would have been more in the lee of the land. The water there, however, was too shallow, and there were recreational fisherman who were trying their luck in this area. Therefore, we anchored in the center.
I took this picture at mid-tide when the flood was full force. The wind and the tide were opposing each other, thus causing the boat to lie at anchor in the way we see pictured below.
The anchor roller set-up that I had devised during the refitting of Oystercatcher worked well. Note the two pieces of seine twine wrapped around the anchor line. This was my mark to indicate to myself that I had 100 feet of rode deployed, 30 feet of which was 5/16 inch chain.
The fenders and polyballs, which I normally just placed in the main salon when daysailing, I tied to the deck.
I set up the sunshade to make our afternoon in the cockpit more enjoyable. I also used bungee cords to prevent one of the halyards from slapping the mast with annoyingly repetitive pings.
The new spreader lights and foredeck light looked good. I couldn't wait to see how well they worked after the sun went down.
This simple sunshade worked wonders for our comfort. One month later, on our first cruise, when the weather had become much warmer, this sun shade would be one of the most valuable items on the boat.
Here's the way the main salon looked on this cool and blustery afternoon. Note the berth extension cushion standing on its end against the bulkhead. After this, I would always store this cushion in the V-berth when cruising. The V-berth was large enough to accommodate this cushion and also a person who might wish to retire to this space for the purpose of resting. Note also the tarp, the duffle bag, and other clothing items. In the future I would always stow the tarp in its proper home in one of the cockpit lockers. The duffle bag I would stow on the clothing shelf in the V-berth. On this weekender trip I did not have the shelf in place. Its absence was certainly felt.
Despite the cool temperatures, it was still nice to have some ventilation in the boat. I had not yet reinstalled the adjustable arm for the forward hatch. Therefore, I had to prop open the hatch with a wadded up jacket.
Note the gallon jug of water and the blue water bottle in the sink. I had not yet sanitized the water tank after the winter haulout, so we had to rely on whatever water we brought aboard the boat. Note also the plastic bottle behind the settee grab rail (pictured right). This was one of the bottles that I used to store alcohol for the stove. I had just filled one of the canisters underneath the stove, and I had not returned this bottle to its proper stowage spot in a three-gallon bucket in the large V-berth locker.
I took this picture to remind myself of this moment. In this afternoon downtime, I took the opportunity to lie down on the starboard settee and take in the sights and sounds of this boat. It was nice to have reached this point. All that hard work had paid off. Now I could simply enjoy the blue sky and the sunshade flapping in the breeze.
A mind cannot be too idle for too long on a boat, especially when you're the captain. No, there are too many things that can go wrong without proper vigilance. The winds were 20-25 knots, and I wanted to make sure that we were not dragging anchor. Using my hand-bearing compass, I triangulated our position every 20-30 minutes from the time we anchored until the time we went to bed.
Around 1900 HRS I set out the food that I would prepare for our supper. For this, I only needed one of the counter extensions. Notice how I have covered the electrical panels with the custom-made pieces of Sunbrella canvas that I had sewn in the summer of 2015.
The tide turned not long before this time, and the boat had swung at anchor. Therefore, I paused from my preparations and noted our new latitude and longitude.
I had set the anchor-drag alarm on the GPS soon after we anchored, but I had had some problems with it. For the greatest accuracy, I had needed to set the alarm at the moment I had dropped the anchor. This had been impossible, because I had been the one who had dropped the anchor, and it had been too much to ask my daughter to fool around with the GPS while she was at the tiller and focused on steering us into the wind. The most that I could do after the fact was to over-set our turning radius on the alarm to several hundred feet. Otherwise, we would end up with false alarms. We had several false alarms before I figured out which radius would prevent us from having them. How did I know they were false alarms? Because of my triangulation records.
As the sun neared the horizon, I turned on the new anchor light at the top of the mast. I also plugged in the Davis brand cockpit anchor light and hung it from the backstay. You can see the DC receptacle that I had installed in the starboard side coaming of the cockpit for this purpose during the refitting of Oystercatcher. There had been a fair amount of powerboat traffic on this creek during the day. I wanted to burn this extra anchor light so that no one would mistake the anchor light at the top of the mast for a star.
As nighttime drew near, the maritime forest on the small uninhabited islands woke up. After dark we would hear all sorts of hoots and howls and cries, some almost eerie.
If you compare this picture of the boat at anchor to the earlier one far above, you'll notice that things are reversed now that the tide has turned. Nevertheless, similar forces are in play. The tide is ebbing, and the current is trying to push the boat downstream (to the right in this picture). The wind, however, is counteracting the current, causing the boat to lie at an obtuse angle relative to the anchor rode.
While I took these pictures, my daughter enjoyed the view from the cockpit.

Tuna Helper and blackeyed peas - she and I had munched on this same meal many times before on our many family camping trips in the American West.
We enjoyed our meal while sitting in the cockpit. I climbed back down into the boat to get both of us some second helpings. It had not been a strenuous day, but we were both hungry.
She loved the sunset . . .
and took this picture for me.
Though somewhat less windy than the day, the evening was still breezy, and it was now much cooler. She and I enjoyed the stars. I wish that we could have taken a picture of them. They seemed as brilliant as those in this picture from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The next morning I arose early to check the anchor and to cook us some breakfast. This 10-inch, low-rimmed cast iron skillet would be an important piece of cookware in the cruising that Oystercatcher would soon do. More important would be the 3-quart high-rimmed cast iron skillet. These two skillets would serve almost every cooking purpose.
For this meal, I used the port and starboard counter extensions, but not the one that bridges the companionway.
Throughout my cooking of this meal, I monitored the CO detector. Whenever the companionway hatch is all the way open, as I earlier said, the detector does not move from the zero position.
Despite their size, the counter extensions do no prevent you from using the settees. As I cooked, I sat down from time to time to read a magazine.
As I've said in other postings, the stainless steel loops for these counter extensions are through-bolted to the deck with G-10 backing plates. The thin lines are high-tech and low-stretch. There's little chance of breaking them or the counter extensions themselves, seeing how they are epoxy-coated plywood, reinforced with mahogany fiddles.
When the time came to go, we almost couldn't go. During the night the wind had shifted from the NE to the N, and now it was blowing straight down the creek. Moreover, the tide was at full ebb. With near Herculean effort I slowly took in the anchor rode, cleating it off as I went, waiting for a brief pause every now and then in the wind. My daughter could handle the tiller while underway, but she was not experienced enough with the Yamaha to motor us slowly forward against this wind and tide. When we finally broke free, the wind and the tide starting pushing us down the creek toward the lee shore near its mouth. Nevertheless, I had time to get the anchor stowed and to get from the foredeck to the cockpit and get us turned around. This gave me a taste of the single-handing experience.
Back at the dock, my daughter and I hugged each other and briefly celebrated our accomplishment. Within a month we would make a six-day shakedown cruise that would bring with it more challenges.
This ends this posting on the first weekend trip I made after my lengthy refitting of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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