We started out for Southport in the morning and made it in record time. So early, in fact, that when we saw that there were no free docks available in the town cut we decided to press onward for a few hours. But as we entered the open Cape Fear River we were hit with high winds and contrary seas and as much bashing as we’d experienced leaving St. Simon’s Island. After about ten minutes, Jack said, “That’s it, we’re going back.” We took a berth at the Southport Marina, consoling ourselves with the fact that at least it’s a town and we can get some provisions. Wrong. It’s a charming town but all the shops are geared toward the tourist trade with prices to match. And no grocery store within walking distance. In retrospect we should have deployed the bikes but by the time we realized the distance to the supermarket it was near closing time.
The next morning we left the dock in conditions completely opposite the day before. Our run up the Cape Fear River was calm and beautiful and we chose a couple of optional anchorages for the night. And then we were thwarted time and again by bridges with limited openings where we’d miss the schedule by a minute or two and have to wait an hour for the next one, motoring up and down the channel getting waked by holiday boaters.
After we got through yet another bridge and we were making pretty good time I went below to do some logging and look for anchorages.
“Hey Marce!” Jack called from the helm. “Look, I lost the information on the chartplotter.”
Instead of a detailed navigational chart with the boat icon showing our position, there was a blocky rudimentary abstract of a map, with the boat icon plunked in the middle. It took us a minute to think it through, and we came to the conclusion that we’d run off the edge of that particular chart cartridge. No problem, we have charts for the whole world. I ran below and got the bag of Navionics chart cards and flipped through them trying to figure out which was the next one. The names are not particularly specific, and there’s no listing of what each one covers. Still, I picked the most likely contender and popped it in. Nope. Try another. No go. You’re kidding, right?
I rebooted, reseated and reset multiple times. The chartplotter still gets our position, and the other data from the instruments. It just can’t read the card. Great.
We navigated the rest of the day with the iPad and the paper charts we have, but after the convenience of the chart plotter at the helm it was quite an adjustment.
Meanwhile, we were playing tag all day with a ketch named Sarah, and exchanged words of frustration about the bridge schedules while circling and waiting for openings. After the last hour-long wait for a bridge we both decided to tie up to the fuel dock of a marina that was closed. We made it by 8pm in wind and current again, and with the help of some fishermen on the pier. We invited Sarah’s skipper for dinner and sat in the cockpit trying to unwind from a very tense day. As luck would have it, John has the same chartplotter we have. He brought over the latest firmware so we could update our unit, then we tried his chart card in our unit and our chart card in his unit. The card is fine. The unit is kaput. Or at least the part that reads the cards is broken.
This is a complicated and puzzling and expensive setback no matter what we do. On the one hand we have charts for the world, no small cost there. On the other hand we have a chartplotter that’s been discontinued and is no longer supported by the company. If we upgrade the hardware, we have to buy new charts. If we want to keep the charts we have to find a used or leftover plotter that will accept those charts, which, to give you an idea of how old the technology is, are on compact flash cards.
And meanwhile, of course, we need to bolster our meager collection of paper charts and that means getting to a place that has a decent chandlery.
Oh, and the autopilot doesn’t work. It’s not leaking as much but it won’t hold a course.
All in all, we’re having a bad couple of days, just in time to fight the massive number of boats out for the 4th of July holiday. Escape Velocity’s crew are not in a festive mood. But we’d still rather be here than anywhere else.