The Woodpile

New Jersey to Charleston

Last updated 06/14/02

Some detailed photos and mechanical drawings of the boat can be found here.

Here are some more photos when I put the boat up for sale. Mainly photos that are also found here, but additionally some newer ones showing the rot damage that was creeping in.


The last week in March, Joe (the same one that did much of the re-wiring, etc. last fall) and I planned to bring my new (old) boat from Waretown, NJ. to Charleston SC. When winterizing the boat, Red (the mechanic in NJ) had discovered the garden hose in the water system, and I decided that he should just remove it, to be replaced in the spring. When spring came, Red discovered he didn't have time to do the job. So, Joe and I decided to plan on having no plumbing. I bought a porti-potti and Joe brought his 5-gallon water container. He also brought all his camp cooking gear, just in case the generator or stove had problems. Understand, until this point, we only had a total of 5 hours on the boat. The wiring looked shaky, so we really expected problems of some sort. That's why we prepared for as many different failures as possible. I bought an unlimited towing policy from Boat/US. Onboard we would have 2 mounted VHF radios, a handheld VHF and two cell phones. Two GPS, one mounted and 1 battery powered. One DC powered spotlight and one battery powered. Waterproof strobe lights to clip to our life vests. 2-way radios to talk from bridge to cabin. Many tools, spare batteries, wire, etc. Not to mention 3 (count 'em, three) laptop computers. Joe brought his laptop. I had a laptop set up with a couple of spreadsheets and the GPS software. At the last minute, the CD drive died. I borrowed another machine from work to load the GPS software on, but ran out of time and didn't get the spreadsheets moved over. SO, I brought both computers along.


On Friday we rented a U-Haul in Woodstock, GA., loaded it up with the canvas, electronics, food and clothes, and headed for New Jersey overnight. Arriving about noon on Saturday, we removed the plastic that had covered the boat during the winter and loaded the equipment and supplies on the boat. Test firing the engines was easy as Red had fired them up a few days before. We spent the night at the dock.


Sunday we finished up some other tasks, including mounting the GPS and antenna and putting the canvas back up on the bridge. About noon, we headed out, planning to go out Barnegat Inlet to the ocean and down to Cape May for the evening. As we hit the ocean, we quickly realized the waves were just too uncomfortable in a 36-year-old wood boat with unknown capabilities. We made the decision to head back in the bay and do the inland route. Heading south on the Barnegat Bay, the channel narrows. I did not have a lot of experience with the new GPS and had not figured out how to plot a course. I only had the waypoints in the system. When the channel narrowed, I could see the next point on the GPS, but found myself getting out of the channel often. Finally it happened, we hit a sand bar. We sat there helpless as I envisioned having to call for tow on the very first day out. The wind and current slowly spun the boat back and forth. After several minutes of this, the boat drifted off. Best I could figure we only hit with the keel. No strange vibrations from the props, so we figured no damage had been done. We made a little further that evening before stopping for the night, anchored in a shallow spot off the channel. We had made only 18 miles. This was not a good start for a 900-mile trip where we needed to average about 80 miles a day.


Monday was little better. More narrow channels with very slow going. The blown zippers in the canvas, combined with the cold damp air, made it miserable. I was thankful that Joe convinced me to buy some good foul weather gear. 49 miles. So far, 67 miles traveled. 108 gallons of fuel. At least the fuel consumption was inline with my budget. We spent the night in a marina. Electricity meant we could run the heater.


Tuesday, we made the last 20 miles to the Cape May harbor. Fogged in. We spent our spare time sewing up the blown zippers and watching a DVD. So, in 3 days, we made 87 miles. About what we had planned for one day. Our spirits were not very high at this point. I had scheduled 3 weeks off from work, but at this rate I STILL wouldn't make it. I could only hope the pace would pick once we hit open water. But, would the weather on the Delaware Bay keep us holed up in Cape May?


Weather was clear. Topped off the tanks and headed out of the harbor. By this time I had figured out the course plotting capabilities of the GPS, so we had lines to follow on the screen. Coming into the Delaware Bay, we were running head on into the waves. Every once in a while a wave would break over the bow. The boat bucked and bounced, occasionally slapping down on the next wave. The time spent sewing up the zippers was greatly appreciated during this ride. After a while it got a little better, but it wasn't until midday when we got on the upper bay, that it settled down enough for us to breathe again. We anchored that night in a little harbor on the C&D canal. That evening, discussing the trip, we discovered we had been thinking exactly the same thing that morning. Within minutes after leaving Cape May, I was thinking that it was probably too rough, and maybe we should just head back. I figured I'd just tough it out, but if Joe mentioned he though it was too bad, I'd quickly agree. He was sitting next to me thinking exactly the same thing. But neither of us spoke, so we made it up the bay. So, for the first time, we made more than 50 miles in one day. We were now about 160 miles into the trip.


We backtracked about a mile to a marina and fueled up. Heading out of the C&D canal and into the upper Chesapeake was nice. Small seas with the wind behind us. For the first time, the going was nice. We probably averaged over 12 knots. The only glitch was when I moved forward too fast while pulling up the anchor after stopping for some reason or the other during the day. The rope got twisted around the prop shaft. We wiggled and tugged, but no progress. I was trying to think of a valid reason that Joe should be the one to dive overboard into the REALLY COLD water, but could not come up with one. It was my boat. I was the one that caught the rope. No valid reason at all. I started removing my outer gear. One last time, we tried again. Let out some rope and pulled it around to the stern where it was caught. Then bumped the gearshift a little in one direction and then the other. It came loose! No noticeable abrasions on the rope and the anchor was still there. I'm not sure how much of my relief was for the anchor and how much was that I didn't have to dive into that water. By that evening, we made almost 90 miles. 250 miles into the trip.


We headed for Norfolk. The seas were not nearly as bad as they were on the Delaware, but they were quartering seas. The boat rocked and rolled quite a bit. It was not as scary as the trip up the Delaware, but it was actually more uncomfortable. A couple of days later, I noticed bruises on both my legs where I was bracing myself on the arms of the captains chair. Switching to the auxiliary tanks, we made it into Norfolk almost out of fuel. 330 miles made. That evening, Joe's parents drove up with my Dad. Joe left for home and my Dad stayed to finish the trip with me.


We headed across the Norfolk harbor and down to the beginning of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway).


I didn't keep as detailed day-by-day records the second week of the trip, but here's some highlights.

As my Dad and I headed south on the ICW, we noticed the powerboats headed north suddenly change to sailboats heading north. Almost as if all the boats left the same spot in the south all at the same time, and they passed us according to speed. The weather warmed up and foul weather gear was not needed anymore. It wasn't as cold at night, so the lack of heat was not noticed. Daddy picked up on what I needed him to relay to me about the charts while I watched the GPS. The ICW is almost all protected waters and the weather was good, so we were able to make better time. We made a good 80 miles most every day. The last day we made 100 miles. Along the way we saw countless osprey nests on top of the waterway signposts. With ospreys. We anchored out Wednesday night in a cypress swamp. Really nice surroundings.

In Charleston

We got into Charleston Thursday afternoon and dropped by the dock to fuel up. Afterwards we went over to Woodpile's new home. It is a little tight. Later I'll get a photograph of the boat in her slip. A dock goes by the starboard side and across the bow. A jetdock then goes up the port side about 10-15 feet. Another jet dock goes behind the starboard side of the stern about 3 feet. To get out requires pushing the stern to the port to clear and then back out. To get back in calls for nosing it in and then backing the stern towards the dock. There is a current going slightly crossways to the slip, usually along with winds. Altogether, getting in and out is interesting.

The next day, we started looking at the water system. I already knew where the water heater was. Hidden between two bulkheads, it is visible from the lower bilge, but not accessible from any place I could see. After looking around a while, we pulled back the carpet at the door to the galley and found yet another hatch! Easy access to the heater. Once finding this, it took less than 2 hours to hook the water back up. Turning the water heater back on produced HOT water!

I spent a little time looking at the head, but could not find why it wouldn't flush. No reaction at all when pressing the flush button. A few weeks later, when Mother and Dad came down for the weekend, I took the meter to the head. After tracing the power and it all looked good, I pulled the switch and shorted the contacts. It flushed. Bad switch. I remembered that you had to push the switch rather hard to get it to flush. After replacing the switch, it works just fine, now.


There's more to tell. The night we let the anchor drift loose and floated into some stumps. And more. But the summary is that we did about 1000 miles (970 by plotted points) in 12 days. The boat is in Charleston. The water is hooked back up. I replaced a switch on the head and it is operational again. Everything works. Hot water showers, air conditioning, the works. Mother and Daddy came down one weekend and we took it out on a 2-3 hour cruise. Sightseeing along the battery looking at the historic homes. Then ran a few miles south on the ICW and back.



We had several bridges to go under that had to be raised. We'd call on the radio, tell them the name of the boat, where we were, and then ask when we could get through the bridge. They would let us know, often saying "Come on down and I'll get you through". More than once, they timed it just right so we didn't even have to stop. These people operating the bridges were artists. After a while, we realized that they must have to keep a record of the names of the boats that they had to raise the bridge for. Also, that some of the operators don't bother to write down the name when we tell them, but just wait and read it off the back of the boat. The name is not painted on my boat, so more than once, they'd call again when we got through to ask the name. One of the operators had to walk out to the bridge after talking to us on the radio. After she got to the shack, she called again and asked the name of the boat. I said "Woodpile". She paused, and then chuckled and said "Oh, hehe, OK." More than one person was amused at the name.


Joe cooked all the meals. We ate pretty good. Corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast. Usually we had no time for lunch, or the water was too bad to try to stop, so we snacked on peanut butter and crackers. Dinner was varied, with red beans and rice, tuna fish casserole, and the occasional restaurant when we stayed at a marina. When it was Daddy's turn to cook, it was more like canned soups and the like. But, you know, on the water after a long day at the helm, this tasted wonderful, as well.


The stops at the marinas were welcome breaks. We'd radio or call on the cell phone to see if they had water turned on (most at the beginning of the trip were still winterized). We'd ask about power, rates, restrooms, laundry, restaurants, etc. Usually, we got in after the office was closed, so we just tied up where they had told us and then set out for the showers. After the trip up the Delaware Bay, my bedclothes got wet, so we dried them in a laundry 2 days later. In the meantime, I slept on the dinette bed. That same place they had a good bar/restaurant called The Naughty Gull, where we indulged in some seafood. Joe and I stayed in marinas 3 nights. Since the ICW has many more sheltered places to hang out, my dad and I only spent one night in a marina.


We made fuel stops almost every day. The auxiliary tanks were only used about 3 times. Once the first day on the Chesapeake, one main went dry and we switched to the aux tanks about 10 miles out. The second day on the Chesapeake, heading into Norfolk, one main went dry about 25 miles out. At only 25 gallons per tank, 25 miles is close, so to be sure to use all fuel, I only switched over that one tank. We decided to head for a marina closer to the mouth of the Norfolk harbor than we had originally chosen. About 10 miles out, we switched the other tank. We made it in, with about 10 gallons in one tank and 20 in the other.


Since this was a 36-year-old boat, and especially since it had questionable wiring, I fully expected to have some sort of problems along the way. Broken fan belt. Dead batteries. Fried alternator. Busted water hoses. Or worse. But nothing broke. The whole trip without a hitch!!! I was really amazed. The only problems were figuring out the fuel valves and twice wrapping ropes on the prop shafts. The fuel consumption was better than I had planned on. All in all, I was very pleased with the way she performed.


The first half of the trip Joe went along. He knows the boat about as well as I do because he spent a week on it last fall. Also, he knows something about navigation and how to read a chart. As usual, we got along very well. He did an excellent job of letting me be in charge, but always being right there to back me up and provide a second set of eyes. I learned a lot from him, and we learned even more together. AND he managed to get the rope free and save me from having to dive into that freezing water. For that I am forever grateful.

The second half of the trip was with my Dad. It's been a long time since we spent more than just a few hours together by ourselves. We quickly discovered we still think alike. With what I already knew about boats, and additionally what I learned in the previous week, he had a lot to learn. He was quick to pick up on what needed to be done and never minded when I said "Leave that one, grab the rope on the bow. Hurry." After about the second day, I got to wondering if I was being too abrupt or if he might be feeling put upon by being ordered around by his son. I told him how much I appreciated his help and that he was learning quick. I then told him I hoped I wasn't being too bossy. I shouldn't have worried. He totally understood the necessities and just hoped he was being some help. By the second or third day he was past learning what the different symbols on the charts meant and was on to making comments about where the channel was narrow, and which side would be best. An excellent deck hand. The time spent with my Dad, working, talking, cooking, turned out to be the best part of the trip.

But all in all, since Helen hadn't been born yet, the whole trip kinda sucked.

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